International Banking

My darling daughter - Squid - recently went backpacking around New Zealand. Her bank - the Clydesdale Bank (part of 'National Australia Group' - NAG) assured her that her Maestro (Mastercard) debit card would work in any autoteller in New Zealand, allowing her access to her funds.

Well. It didnt. And the local franchise staff for NAG - Bank of New Zealand - BNZ - couldnt tell her why it didnt work. So she's on the other side of the planet, and was running out of money. Fast.

So my wife went into the Clydesdale and tried to wire the money direct to Squids new Kiwibank bank account. They presented her with a three page form which she had to fill in - including a permanent address for Squid. Hello. 'Backpacking'. No permanent address. And then they said it'd take at least 10 days to get the money through.

Bank of Scotland to the rescue. I've suffered with a BOS account for years, putting up with their ridiculous charges and badly-trained branch staff. But on the online-banking system - there was an 'international Transfer' page. And so we fillied in Squids' details - and wired some money through on Monday- fully expecting it to take four working days.

Squid confirmed that she received the money in her account on Wednesday.

Now. Thats bloody good service.

So the advice is - if your heading off backpacking - see if you can set up a local account in advance, and wire money through. Worst case, take a pile of cash with you - say as Travelers cheques - so you dont end up penniless for a week whilst all this gets sorted out.

Also bear in mind that thanks to new money-laudering legislation, moving money between countries is more difficult.

Clearly, this is an Edge case - so just ignore everything that lcoal branch staff say. They dont know, or its out of date.

To their credit, @BNZ have a twitter account and they did really try and help - assuring us that the card should work and their staff would know how to deal with it. Shame that 'social' help didnt actually produce support on the ground. Bank of Scotland also have a twitter account, and recently answered (in less than 10 minutes) a very specific question regarding paper-free statements. Something the online email response took over a week to answer.

So there's another lesson for us. Yes, go and implement a social interface to your enterprise. But you better have bloody good support on the ground, else your social interface will get swamped. And if doesnt match the boots on the ground, then it'll look bloody stupid.

In this interconnected 24x7 world that we now live in, episodes like this are no longer hushed up and kept quiet. They lie in wait - just like this blog entry - for the next google hit. One negative experience such as this might have huge effects on your future customer base.