With Nigel Farage’s dystopian banking nightmare now national news, I thought I’d add to the furore with the story of how an anonymous friend of mine got their first bank account after moving to the UK.
Which might sound as uneventful as getting a bank account should be, and is in many places around the world. But as you’ll discover, the financial industry is built on a pack of lies. Because it’s the only way to have a financial industry in the UK, today, given how constrictive the rules are. As under socialism, without the black market, it wouldn’t function at all…
So, while Nigel’s loss of a bank account may seem like a dystopian nightmare, here’s a story of just how absurd getting a bank account in the first place can be…
It all began when I was invited to London to do a research project.
Upon arriving in London, I needed a bank account in order to get a flat. And I needed a flat in order to get a bank account, because they require proof of address to open one…
This Catch-22 is a common problem around the world.
In the end, I sub-let from someone using a foreign bank account to pay and began trying to acquire a proof of address that would permit me to get a UK bank account.
They didn’t accept my sub-let agreement as proof of address. They didn’t accept my electoral register enrolment. They didn’t accept my bank statements from my foreign bank that were sent to my new address. The list goes on and on, as did time.
Each week began in much the same way. I would go to the bank’s branch at Canary Wharf, on the way to the office, and show them my latest form of proof of address that I had acquired. And they rejected each one. And so, I’d go and get a new one.
After three months, and countless forms of proof of address being acquired and then rejected by the bank, during which time I had no income because I couldn’t get paid, I decided to take more drastic action. I decided to refuse to leave the bank branch until they gave me an account.
This may seem rude, but I was quite close to some of the staff by this time and they considered it a visit by a friend… which turned into a sleepover. I literally slept on their sofa for… I’m not sure how many hours that day. I had breakfast at their waiting area table. And then lunch. And then dinner. It eventually began to look and smell a little concerning to the people passing by. I wonder if any of them recognised me over the course of their commute to and from work.
Towards the end of the day, a staff member came over and announced she’d found a solution. She proposed opening an international student account that is designed for people who didn’t have suitable proof of address because they’d just moved to the UK. It had many inconvenient restrictions, they explained, such as very low ATM withdrawal limits. But at least I’d have something.
And so, we began the laborious process of applying for a student bank account…
“Are you a student in the UK?”
“This is a student bank account. Are you a student in the UK?”
“Good. Do you have permission to be in the UK?”
“Yes, I’m a British citizen…”
“This account is for international students. Do you have permission to be in the UK?”
And so it went, for about 15 minutes.
Luckily, I’d brought my foreign passport and student ID from my Australian university to provide plausible supporting documentation…
About halfway through the very long process of opening the international student bank account, I had a eureka moment:
“When we finish the process to set up an international student bank account, could you print a bank statement for me, right here, right now?”
“And that’ll be considered valid proof of address?”
“So, I could take that bank statement and go next door to your competitor and get a normal bank account with my freshly acquired valid proof of address?”
“…Let me go and speak to the manager…”
Apparently, the manager eventually saw sense and negated the need to open an international student bank account just to get proof of address so that I could then open a normal bank account.
And so, after another brief nap on the sofa, with my shoes off, we began the process of opening a brand-new proper bank account without any proof of address from their official proof of address requirements list
Then came the questions again…
“Are you employed in the UK?”
“I’m on a short-term contract to do a research project in the UK.”
“We can only give you a bank account if you are employed.”
“Erm… Yes, I’m employed.”
And on and on it went like that. I was prompted over and over again about my salary and assets in the UK and all the rest of it. Each time that I gave the wrong answer, the right one was provided for me. At some point, the lady dispensed with the charade, stopped asking me the questions and just put in the information that I needed, herself.
But, after three months of trying several times a week, I finally had my bank account, even if it was based on a very long list of “almost there” information.
And that is what it can take to get a bank account in the UK.
Now, all of this was unusually ironic for a simple reason. At the time of the kerfuffle, I was doing a research PhD that focused on mortgage fraud in Australia. I’d done the field research and was writing up the thesis.
While American sub-prime borrowers had submitted dodgy documents in order to get unaffordable loans, Australians outsourced the practice to their mortgage brokers and banks. If you didn’t earn enough money to qualify for a loan, your mortgage broker or loan approvals officer would simply add a digit to your loan application and, hey presto, you qualified.
My PhD research uncovered that this was common, much to my university’s horror. They quickly pulled the plug on my research project once I could prove that mortgage fraud was systemic in Australia. And then a Royal Commission exposed some of it in the end, anyway.
In the midst of this academic experience, I was busily experiencing the very same nonsense just to get a bank account in the UK.
My point is that the regulatory system, especially as it applies to the banking sector, is now such a tangled morass that it has become almost impossible to comply properly with all the rules and remain functioning.
This has created an environment of administrative justice, where the rules are so complex that 100% compliance is virtually impossible to achieve, and so the rules can be enforced selectively against those whom bureaucrats want to target. They’ve created enough rules so that they’re sure to find one you’ve broken.
We all experience this during tax time, when no two accountants would give you the same tax return. It is occurring in every other aspect of our society, too.
Nigel Farage is only the latest victim. If you think he’ll be the last, you’re not paying attention.
Canadian truckers and those who donated to their cause, political parties, cryptocurrency purchasers and cash withdrawers have all been targeted, too.
It’s only a matter of time before they come for you. It may well be hidden by an impossible administrative situation, like my experience was. But the squeeze is on.
So that’s the story of my anonymous friend. I hasten to add that it’ll all get much worse if central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) become commonplace. Then governments will have much more direct control over your finances, rather than having to operate via bankers who occasionally see the light and let you open a bank account without proof of address.
But there are actions that you can take to try and get some of your life and wealth beyond the reach of digital mechanisms of control. Find out what they are, here.
Until next time,
Editor, Fortune & Freedom