I’ve already stated on here that I recently had the arrival of my first child, a son who is now almost 4 months old. Time really has flown by, however, one particular aspect of having a son has dragged on and on. I want to open an account for my son, ideally with a decent interest rate, with a reputable company, that is unlikely to go all Greek on me. Now I could have opened an account here in Hong Kong, but as a result of having my family in the UK I felt that it would probably be a lot easier (and by easier I mean they were less likely to fall to the biggest scam there is going – bank fees) if I opened an account in the UK. This way they would have a nice easy sort code and account number to transfer the money to.
Well my dad put me in touch with his UK financial advisor, who although he couldn’t specifically help me personally as I was not in the UK, was able to provide me a very detailed list of bank accounts, building societies, offshore accounts that provided some sort of child account. Now, my dad also had an account at Halifax, and they seemed to be offering a decent range of accounts there for children, so he offered to help me out and go to one of their branches and check for me. At the same time I figured it couldn’t hurt to phone them and get some more details.
Now I know I live in Hong Kong. I also know my son lives in Hong Kong. I made it abundantly clear (as did my dad when he went into the branch), that my son would not suddenly mysteriously move to the UK on his own at the age of 4 months. I took painstaking care to confirm that he would be in Hong Kong with me but that I wanted a UK account for him to make it easier for my family to put money in his account. This is where it all started to go wrong. The lady on the phone pointed out to me that this was not a problem, but that I would not be able to open the account in my name as I was not in the UK. She pointed out that with a copy of my son’s birth certificate, somebody from my family could walk into a branch of Halifax in the UK and open the account in their name in trust of my son. That seemed easy enough, so I got all the different account type details they had and started thinking about what to do next. My dad then emailed me the same day, having gone down to the branch nearest his work, and pretty much told me the same thing regarding the account types, and that it was no problem to open it for my son in Hong Kong, but it had to be in his name. All I had to do was send the original birth certificate of my son and he would do the rest.
So, that seemed easy enough, now all I had to worry about was how I would be able to check the account and show it to my son as he got older so he could see how much money he would have to waste on video games, hover cars, and future alcoholic beverages once the money was his. The problem here was that my dad already had a Halifax account and as such if he opened it, the online account, or any statement would also show details of his account. He could of course just scan the relevant bit and send it to me, but then my sister confirmed she had no Halifax account, so she was more than happy to open it in her name and then maybe she could send me the statements (or allow me to use the online banking to see).
The next thing I did was send the original birth certificate in the mail to the UK. Now, I was also in need of the original certificate for my son’s UK passport application, but seeing as the account opening should have taken a day or two, whilst the passport application can take well over a month I thought ok, account first, then send the certificate to the passport application office. So it was just a matter of waiting… or so I thought.
My sister got the certificate and she went to the Halifax branch near her. When she got there, and wasted an entire lunch time there, they told her that they could not open the account. My sister instantly contacted me and told me so, but then my dad said he would go back into his branch and check again. I also called their phone line again to double confirm and was told that yes opening an account for a child abroad was no problem as long as somebody went into a branch and opened it there. So the certificate made its way to my dad and he went in and opened the accounts. At the time they could only open 2 accounts of the 3 I wanted but they said he would be able to open the third once he got all the other details in the mail from the two opened accounts. The certificate was now on its way back to me.
Fast-forward to about a week later. My dad gets a phone call from Halifax telling him that the accounts have to be closed down because my son is not in the UK. How in the hell is this news to them??? They were told repeatedly that he was not in the UK, and neither was I and that was the reason why my dad was opening it for him. So now back to square one… only now I have to wait for his passport to be processed and the certificate to be sent back to me before I can even think about opening any other account in the UK. Why is it that financial institutes just have no clue when it comes to these things. It’s amazing how many times you get told one thing on the phone, you double and triple check things with them, and you ask specifically about something that you think may be an issue; then you get given a confirmation that it can be done, only for you to waste the time of going to the branch to be told it can’t be done.
However, this case just really showcases the inadequacies of Halifax, their telephone support line and the one particular branch that was involved. How do you get you get things so wrong that you open the account for over a week and then close it? How do you allow somebody who isn’t supposed to open an account open one in the first place? Of course I imagine they see no problem in what they did, they have no issue wasting people’s time (and the cost of posting the certificate via registered speed mail); not to mention actually taking somebody’s money (even if it is only for a few days) before telling them they actually can’t open the account.
Is it any wonder the global markets are a mess, if the so called “experts” have no clue?