Bring on the fintech revolution. Fast.

Jan 24, 2016
miltons ip

The fintech revolution cannot come soon enough.  Our banks are so far behind the curve on technology it is embarrassing.  As a case study, consider my Kafkaesque banking weekend.

First, I tried to open a bank account with my teenage daughter at TD.  This full-blown production required a first visit to a branch to make an appointment (which cannot be done online), a return visit to the bank for the scheduled appointment, and then a 20 minute meeting with ‘an advisor’, during which all that happened is that he printed off and she signed multiple pieces of paper (no one read them, of course) which he put into ‘her file’.  Earth to TD – opening a bank account should involve less time than a Nordic saga, and less than a clear cut of dead trees.

Of course, my anger is really just jealousy – I just wish that my business were in such a protected oligopoly that we could afford such fat, slow, stupid and annoying inefficiency.

Then came the TFSA disaster.  I have some cash in a TD chequing account.  I want to put it in a TFSA.  I have zero bank loyalty, and thus I have TFSAs at each of TD, BMO and RBC.  First, I tried what should have been the easiest: I tried to move the funds online, from a TD chequing account to a TD TFSA.  No luck.  I still don’t know why, but even though I can see the entire history of the TD TFSA (opened in 2010), I cannot transfer any funds into it online from any TD bank account.  Go figure.

I like BMO Investorline’s platform much better than TD Waterhouse anyway, so I thought I would put the funds in the BMO TFSA.  (Waterhouse is for traders, which I am not.  Investorline is for investors, which I am.  Among other things, the historical portfolio return reporting is vastly superior on Investorline.  RBC’s Action Direct is acceptable, but mediocre in every possible way.)

Alas, there is no way to transfer funds electronically from a TD chequing account to a BMO investment account.  Sure, I could move funds from one bank to another by Interac transfer, but that is capped at $2500/day or some crazy thing.  So, I tried to go old school.  I went to TD to get a bank draft, which is a cute piece of paper that requires a bunch of typing and two signatures.  It takes about 15 minutes of staff time to produce this cute piece of paper, which is about as secure as your average piece of paper.  And of course, then I have to carry the thing around and not lose it – which is no small undertaking, where I am concerned.  While we waited for her supervisor to finish with a customer and sign my bank draft, the teller helpfully told me that my TD access card was outdated and needed to be replaced by a new one with much more security.  However, 15 minutes of frantic keyboarding later, the system still would not let her cancel my old card.  So I still have it.

Thus, after about 30 minutes of staff time, I left TD with an insecure cheque and an insecure Interac card.  Figuring that it was a bad idea to just leave my bank draft rotting in my brief case, I waltzed into a BMO branch to deposit it to my TFSA.

Apparently, however, I did much more than step into a bank – I stepped back into the last century.  BMO policy is that I cannot deposit funds to my own TFSA without first making an appointment to meet with an investment advisor.  And of course, there are no appointments to be had on a Saturday afternoon.  Moreover, the few BMO branches open on Saturday (most are not) close at 4 pm, and don’t open at all on Sunday (at BMO, “banker’s hours” are what passes for 21st century customer service).   Trying to be helpful, the nice young teller man asked me, “Wouldn’t you like to schedule an appointment mid next week?”

No I would not.  It is 2016.  Why on earth should I have to schedule an appointment, waste tons of time when I should be working, drive across town, meet with some ‘advisor’ who knows nothing about investing and everything about selling crap, just to put a few bucks in my TFSA?  That is insane.

So, thought I, I will just skip across the road and put the $ into my TD TFSA.  That seemed logical, no?  Bizarre, yes, to deposit the funds back at TD, but not illogical.  Alas, although I can see my TD TFSA account online, and can see every trade I have ever made in it from any internet-enabled device anywhere in the world, no one in the actual TD branch could find the account let alone make deposit to it.  Mohammed, the nice TD teller man asked me if I would like to meet with an investment advisor – they can see the Waterhouse accounts he told me.  It would only be a few minutes, and I could have a coffee from their fancy coffee machine, Mohammed told me.  Alas, the espresso machine was broken, so as I cooled my heels waiting I set to work trying to fix it.   Unfortunately, I had no more luck getting an espresso than Chad, the investment advisor, had trying to find my TFSA account.  He could see all of my other accounts, but not my Waterhouse TFSA even though he was at a TD branch using a TD computer.  How helpful.  So Chad offered alternatives.  Wouldn’t I like to put them money in my RSP?  Or why did I not just open a new TFSA, he asked me somewhat hopefully?  He was trying to be helpful, but none of these were useful – I need another TFSA like a hole in the head; what I needed was what he needed –  decent software so that he could see his client’s accounts at his financial institution.  So I left, several hours of wasted time later, still lugging around a crappy bank draft and an insecure Interac card and with a hankering for a lot stronger drink than coffee.

Note to banks: it is 2016.  Adapt quickly, or die slowly.  I do not want or need your ‘advice’.  I don’t want to waste your people’s time (and I don’t want to fix your coffee machines.)  I want you to be able to locate my accounts at your institution.  I don’t want to use paper cheques.  I want to be able to transfer funds electronically between institutions. And when I want to open an account or put money into an account, I want to do it quickly, easily and efficiently.  These are simple requests, and if you cannot solve them, someone else will.  And then they will eat your lunch.