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Monday, 23 February 2015

Online banking made easy - French style

Notice anything...er...ever-so-slightly out of place in the title?

Hint...the idea of a service being both "uncomplicated" and "French" at the same time - two attributes which, sadly, so often reveal themselves to be contradictory.

Of course, that's a gross generalisation.

Or it would be if it weren't for the fact that service in France - no matter in which particular domain - is not quite up to the standards of what might be expected.

The corporate cliché about the direction of a business being determined by the demands of its clientele (summed up in the maxim that the "customer is king") invariably becomes confused if not downright lost when put to the test in France.

And it's as true for online banking as it is for any other sector.

Of course it shouldn't be. The very concept of conducting financial transactions online is...well, very 21st century.

And therein lies the problem perhaps.

It's not that France doesn't have online banking.

Most of the country's main high street banks offer the service and some have even developed their own purely online affiliates: Banque Populaire has BRED,  CIC - Filbanque, Societé Générale - Boursorama and BNP Paribas - Hello bank

It's just...well, for those with regular accounts, the use of the online facilities can be...difficult.

I needed to make a transfer at the weekend.

International you'll understand, even if it meant Euro to Euro.

France to Italy (so you knew trouble would be a-brewin')

The princely sum of €150

First step was to log on to my BNP account and go through the whole  rigmarole of adding a new contact to my list of recipients.

It didn't matter that the payment would be a one-time affair (or that the amount was paltry).

The "rules" stipulate that every time you make an international transfer to a new beneficiary, the same process has to be followed.

First up, fill in the amount.

Next step - complete the recipient's IBAN (or International Bank Account Number) then the BIC (Bank Identifier Code).

Everything seemed in order - a quick double-check.

Yep.

Painless so far.

The final stage was to receive a text-message confirmation on my mobile 'phone so that the transfer could be made.

Except...the number the bank had on its file was that of my previous 'phone.

I had informed them in June last year that my number had changed. And there in the "emails sent" box was a copy of what I had written.

Time for a snotty email to the person responsible for customer relations (yes, they still have real people to answer queries at BNP - just not outside of regular working hours).

So transfer aborted and over to my account at Crédit Agricole to see whether I would fare any better there.

By now, you can probably guess where this is going.

Crédit Agricole puts customers through pretty much the same palaver to make an international transfer...amount, IBAN, BIC, reason (not obligatory) and that final page telling me that it would take three days - THREE WHOLE DAYS - for the both the new recipient and the transfer to be approved.

Result?

Well, no result.

Over 30 minutes online to use a service which the banks promise is "simple, smart, and secure"  and I had got absolutely nowhere.

Update. Heard back from my personal banker at BNP later in the week to be told that I could have changed my mobile telephone number myself online.

I simply had to log on to the page which contained my personal details (lost on a website that seems to believe user-friendliness equates with presenting the maximum information in the most complicated format imaginable) and change the number.

I would then receive - by post - confirmation that I had changed the number to which text message confirmations should be sent.

So simple.

Welcome to online banking - French style.

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