Tag Archives: banking

My mind on my money

14 Jan

Banking is tough in Indonesia, if you’re a foreigner. Or an ATM. Witness this recent news item, courtesy of the IPJ Daily News service:

ATM Explodes in Malang, East Java
On Thursday (January 9) at around 0230hrs an ATM belonging to Mandiri Bank exploded on Jalan Kartanegara, Karangploso, Malang, East Java. The explosion caused the machine flew for 20 meters, yet the machine was still in one piece. Suspects failed to recover money from the machine. The police Gegana Team (bomb squad) deployed to the site to secure the area and a forensic team from Surabaya, Indonesia responded to investigate. Four witnesses are under interrogation.

Doesn’t sound like I’d want to be one of those witnesses. That said, trying to get normal banking done is about as pleasant as police interrogation!

1. First of all, getting a bank account is hard. It took me over 3 months. You need a residency permit, a work permit, a letter from your employer confirming your address, and then the ever-illusive tax ID number. And that’s just to fill the forms out. Someone then has to call you and confirm all the information you just provided, and eventually you get a bank account.

2. Having a bank account opened isn’t the same thing as getting a bank card. Nope, really. I found out I had accounts successfully opened because I got a text message from the customer service agent, asking me to deposit money into the account to meet a minimum balance. No correspondence, no bank card, just a text. Sure (I texted) but I don’t know the account numbers. OK, I can text them to you. But how can I deposit money without a bank card? Oh, just log in online. OK, but don’t I need a bank card? No, you can just transfer the funds in. OK, but how will the website know I’m me and connect to my accounts? Just create a user ID. This of course I tried and failed to do because … step 1 of creating a user ID is entering your bank card number. Sigh.

3. Effortless online banking is a fiction made up by marketing types. They probably keep their own money in a sack under the bed. Having eventually obtained a bank card by going in person to the headquarters branch, I now (foolishly) attempted to set up online bill payments. Setting up a payee requires a bank routing code, which makes sense so your bank knows where to send the money. So innocently, I call customer service to ask how I find said code. The response – we don’t keep codes for other banks, just for us. You need to call the other bank where the account is. Other bank – we don’t keep records for bank codes. OK, but this is a (trademarked) “virtual account” – doesn’t that mean I can pay online? Oh no, only in a branch miss. Have a nice day. Sigh again.

What’s most interesting is that everyone else seems to have figured this out. People routinely send you their account details to transfer money. My utility company has set up a virtual account just for me, so I can easily pay my bills. My landlady also sent me her account details, and so did my housekeeper. It’s clearly just me.

Maybe I need to go shopping for a sack. At least this I can do with cash.

Rethinking business

12 Nov

It’s absolutely unbelievable that the previous post is dated October 6th! If I didn’t know better I’d say some blog-bug hacked in and changed the date.  But it’s probably fair to say things have been a little bit hectic!  As I hinted in my last post, the beginning of term has been a storm, characterised by a whirlwind of assignments, group projects, careers events, guest lectures, MBA class elections and more! And that’s just the weekdays!

Despite the controlled insanity, it’s been very interesting to reflect in some quieter moments with a few classmates on how the things we are being taught really could play out in the real world.  One emerging theme is the concept of “rethinking business”.  What is a business for? This question came up in our first week of classes in just about every course.  Some of the concepts hinted at the traditional – to make money, to create and capture value, to innovate – but others also acknowledged a broader sense of purpose – to do all those things with an eye on the big picture of society.

I’ve been very fortunate in the past several weeks to attend events with an incredible list of speakers, two of whom resonated deeply with me personally by capturing different facets of this concept of greater responsibility.  The first was Stephen Green, the chairman of HSBC Holdings plc, speaking at the first Pears Business School Partnership lecture.  You can read more about the event here, but the key takeaway for me was his assertion that companies must transition from treating corporate social responsibility as a solely philanthropic or “do good PR” issue to using it as a core business strategy tool that selects investments in social and environment issues as a component of a successful business model.

The second speaker was Bob Dudley, the newly appointed CEO of BP.  The Confederation of British Industry’s Annual Conference was the location for Mr. Dudley’s first public appearance since taking office on October 1, 2010.  While much of his discussion centred around the in-depth internal analysis and stock-taking within the organization following the Gulf oil spill, he also clearly acknowledged that BP has had to completely rethink its role as a business, and is working on forging a very different relationship with areas like the Gulf where it does business.  Regular readers will know that I’ve written more than once about BP, and I still believe those opinions were founded and appropriate for the time.  Time will tell whether BP actually is able to achieve their objectives under Mr. Dudley’s leadership, but I will say that his personal commitment through his speech is not in doubt.  We can only hope that the new BP that emerges from this disaster will continue to be fully engaged in its broader responsibility as a global company.

So what is a business for? No doubt this will be a central theme revisted in posts to come, but I can say that we are working on defining this for ourselves in a way that centrally integrates the idea that perhaps a better question may turn out to be “Who is a business for?”

Free enterprise vs. red tape

23 Sep

OK, so this isn’t the title of my first business case or anything like that. It’s the contrast between dealing with different service providers here in Oxford.

So first, the “free market”.  One of the first things I attempted to tackle was getting a new phone number.  Step 1, find mobile phone provider that provides iPhone service. Step 2, get phone unlocked. Step 3, get new SIM card for phone.  It’s Step 2 that made me chuckle.

None of the “official” mobile phone operators will unlock you phone for you, but when asked, they all were able to point me in the direction of a certain “news agent’s shop” that provides some value-added services, namely unlocking phones for anywhere between 10 and 20 pounds and 15-20 minutes of your time.  You walk in, you say you need a phone unlocked, they tell you up front before you pay if they can do it, and invite you to have a seat.  Mohammed, the mobile phone locksmith, does some magic with his laptop and hey presto! Phone unlocked, 20 pounds please. 

During my 20 minute wait, I counted about a dozen people who came into the shop for various things – cell phone charger, internet usage (they also have an internet cafe in the basement), printing, scanning, and cigarettes.  The bus driver ran in to grab a drink on the fly as the bus stops outside. A builder down the street came in to get a set of drawings and notes copied. And a lady popped in to pay the 5 pounds she owed from the week before, when she needed a charger in an emergency and didn’t have any cash.

Contrast this with my attempts to open a bank account, the definitive “red tape” experience.  I’d researched online, knew which bank and which account I wanted, and showed up to open an account with all the paperwork I thought I needed.  Not so! First off, a 20 minute wait in line, only to be told I needed an appointment to open an account.  Um, no I said account, not mortgage! But yes, apparently an appointment is required, and of course there were no more appointments left that day.  Come tomorrow, I was told, you won’t need an appointment tomorrow. Oh and by the way, we actually need a completely different document from the one we told you in our brochures.

So visit 2, back the next day, new document in hand, another wait in line.  First question – do you have an appointment to open this account?! At this point, I start looking for the hidden cameras, thinking this has got to be a joke in the making.  Not so! After recapping the previous day’s conversation, the person serving me agreed they could “squeeze me in”, probably because some other poor sucker didn’t have the right documents when he showed up for his appointment!  But then … oh no, this isn’t the right document either, it needs to be signed and dated and on letterhead from the university. Grrrrr!

A classmate also in the line took pity on me, and showed me the letter he’d received.  Having confirmed that in fact, this third piece of paper held the magic formula, I agreed to go and source this document instead.  In the meantime, I was able to persuade the bank to open the account “provisionally” for me, on condition that I would drop the magic document off later that day. 3 visits, 1 bank account, maybe. Wow!

There’s a lesson here somewhere.  I’m still trying to figure out what it is.  Off to navigate my way through another day…