I returned to the UK fifteen years ago as an adult full of the excitement of embarking on a new life. I had last lived here as a child, and while numerous holidays had led me believe I understood how England worked, I was little prepared for the reality of the basics of establishing myself. I had told myself it would be easy, after all I worked in banking and therefore had a strong financial history, and plenty of resources including family.
The first three priorities for a new resident are simple – housing, phone and internet, and bank account. Unless you are lucky enough to arrive with a job, without these it is impossible to start. I naively assumed it would be simple, after all I was a British citizen, I had the passport that should surely open all the doors. The initial step of housing was simple – family! Next step was the phone and internet, here I hit the first problem, I needed a bank account – skip to the third task.
Having first opened an account as a child, and taking simple steps through to an adult account, credit cards and mortgages, I had no concept how difficult this would be – rather ironic seeing as I was a person who should know! The passport wasn’t enough, my previous financial history was of no use, nor mention of my former banking employers (for they did not operate in the UK). I needed bills showing my current address, impossible when it’s not your home, a true catch 22 situation. Eventually I stumbled upon one bank that was willing to overlook my short falls at a hefty price. I was able to open a premium account that appeared developed for overseas students. I would be locked in for a year, but it was worth it.
From what I have observed since, this is still reality – the opening of the worlds borders are of no concerns to banks unless they can make some money, the only hope is the rise of global banks like HSBC, who have stumbled on this as their USP. With the Uk seeking skilled immigration it seems incredible that in this age we are still building basic obstacles. The increasing concerns over money laundering and identity theft seemed to have spooked most banks into turning away potential customers. Surely there can be a return to the basic accounts we used to operate, that would allow a customer to build a history.