Friday, 5 February 2016
A Flying Jatt
I blame it all on quantitative easing and 5 years of "bugger all" interest rates.It happened like this.
Over the last few months one or two of my saving accounts have matured and renewal rates offered were pretty slim. So I had the money transferred to my on line instant access savings account. At the time I was playing with the idea of becoming a landlord.
As it happened, I quickly decided that a "buy to let" landlord's life wasn't for me, Which meant I had £9000 in an extremely low interest rate account doing nothing. I looked around for a suitable place to put this money, but there was nothing that caught my fancy. My experience with stocks and shares hasn't been the happiest so I stick with cash. The funds languished in this low earning account.
After a while I started to get worried and also annoyed at this lack of earning power of the nine grand and started to look around for a safe haven....and hit upon the State Bank of India (SBI). There they were sitting atop of loads of comparison websites offering eye watering rates - and they were Financial Services Compensation Scheme protected.
I clicked through to their website and impatiently filled out an ISA form. In no time at all I had one set up and received an e-mail confirming that and telling me I could bank transfer my deposit within 15 days. I couldn't wait and I immediately transferred £9k to the sort code and account details provided.
Brilliant I thought, when I chanced upon an article about the horrors that can result from spamming. Wonderfully authentic dummy websites that were indistinguishable from the real thing. How many people have been conned into parting with their money....Oh dear!
I went straight back to the SBI web site. It looked real enough, as did the e-mail I received from them. I checked the sort code - it was theirs. That was good, but maybe the account was a dummy - rather like I was.
I dialled the help line number on the e-mail I'd received. The voice at the other end sounded Indian enough (usually a sign to immediately put down the phone - nuisance call); I was given a number of options to choose from and chose general enquiries. The phone rang and rang and rang. Nothing, not a poppadom, not an Indian pie. I redialled and this time chose a different option. Nothing. And again I redial and chose another option. the phone kept ringing.
I imagined in a boiler room in darkest where-ever some smooth criminal was laughing his head off as he counted out my nine grand...I was at a state of near panic. £9,000 lost, gone for ever. I pictured myself being featured on MoneyBox and in the local paper. "Walthamstow pensioner hands over life savings to con man: a salutatory tale."
In desperation I e-mailed the bank. Silence; no customary acknowledgement of receiving it. That was it. I'd have to tell the wife that I'd lost quite a bit of money.
It so happened that the following Wednesday I had to go into town. One of the bank's offices was near Liverpool Street station which is on the line from Walthamstow. I found the bank with no trouble and went in.
It looked like and had the air of one of those private banks. Just one or two customers and smart Indian men and women in grey suits talking earnestly to clients. I was in a queue. We were all in our later years. Two looked suspiciously English. One had a handful of application forms which he was clutching to his chest. "Here to open a cash ISA?" I enquired. "Yes" he replied. He'd tried to do it on line but it didn't work. He had a narrow escape I thought. The other English looking elderly man had fallen asleep.
I was just about to ask how long they'd been waiting when a very nice man asked me what I wanted. On explaining my concern he immediately showed me into the office of some senior manager or other, who rose from his desk and shook my hand!
I went through my experience, my concern that my money was irretrievably etc., etc. All the time I was talking he was keying my details into his desktop. Yes, I'd opened an account with them - at their Golders Green branch. That threw me. But apparently they automatically open an account in the branch nearest you: except I thought that the City of London was closer than Golders Green (ten long stations from Finchley Central on the Northern Line).
They'd only received the money that morning: all £9k of it, and it was sitting in a saving account not the ISA account I'd asked for. No worries: he set it up and there it was now sitting happily glowing in the warmth of 2.3% for 3 years. I signed a few pieces of paper and he assured me the office was not a pop up shop front for some Indian Thuggee gang.
As I left he pointed to his in tray. "600 applications to open an ISA account this morning". I suggested that might be why no one answered my call. We shock hands and I left a happy man.
A few days later I received my ISA certificate and I've now an on line bank account with those very nice people at the State Bank of India .