Friday, December 14, 2007

A Friday Rant

I've been delinquent with my blog posting again. I've been doing stuff that I shouldn't have to do and I'm grumpy because of it. After months of fighting with our Panamanian Bank (Banistmo, Boquete Branch) I have finally had enough and we are moving all of our corporate and personal accounts to another bank. I have never encountered a more disinterested and incompetent bank than that branch and I can't imagine that they have any corporate accounts. Our own corporations will be channeling millions of dollars through our Panamanian banks, as we pay for roads, drainage, water and electrical systems, as we sell building lots, and as we transact many other details related to the development our Roca Milagro residential community. That doesn't seem to matter to Banistmo, and we receive no co-operation, no support, no answers to emails, no telephone calls. Nothing. And no, we are not trying to borrow money. A lack of funds is not our problem. We just want to be able to conduct business, write cheques, transfer funds -- all in a seamless and efficient manner.

Simple, right? No at that bank. One of my partners and I have interviewed a new bank, he in person and I by telephone, and the staff there promises to pay more attention to our needs and to treat us as a valued customer. We'll see.

Contrast Banistmo's attitude to something that happened yesterday with my courier company, here in Canada. One of our drivers was told that a bank deposit he had made for a client was $15,000 short. In the tracing process, it was discovered that the bank had made the error. The bank telephoned our client, apologized profusely, accepted every consequence, and made everyone happy. This happened less than an hour or so from the time we found out the problem existed. In Panama, we are still waiting for processes we started at the bank nearly six months ago to be completed. The actual time it would take for someone who cared to deal with the most important of those requests? Perhaps five or ten minutes. No, I'm not kidding.

There are real cultural differences, of course, in countries around the world. I don't expect everything in Panama to be just the way it is in Canada. That would be silly. Part of the charm of doing business elsewhere is that things are different. Situations that arise from cultural differences or inexperience are something I have no problem with. It is incompetence and sloth that really set me off.

Places like Panama are going to grow more and more quickly. Why? Good weather, low prices, stable economy, stable political environment and charming people, are all pluses that will draw people from North America and Europe who are ready for a move. I know it's Friday afternoon and the last thing you probably want is to have the bejeebers scared out of you. If you can stand it, and want to see yet another reason why so many people are fleeing, from the United States in particular, read this:

USA Quietly Expands Draconian Emergency Powers Law


  1. Don't get Mark going on the stunning ineptitude of financial institutions.
    Perhaps there is a predictable scale of decline as you run your finger down the globe to the south.

    This might be good news in regards to your last observation and link since you may be more likely to fall through the cracks in a less competent environ, bureaucratic or otherwise. Right.

  2. Lin: I'm sure Mark and many more of us could get together and verbally eviscerate banks and other institutions. I have had my share of horrific experiences with them. Still, if you don't like one bank, or if their ineptitude causes you problems, you can always go down the street to a competitor. You can't do that with government. A rule made, a law passed, becomes yet another control on the population that will, history shows, seldom be rescinded.

  3. Hi Sieg, good idea to move away from Banistmo, they were recently acquired by HSBC, quite possibly the worst bank in the world when it come to customer service and obscene charges. Not surprising since HSBC came out of Household Finance.

    For my company (Palmex Panama) we are using Banvivienda, a small bank that is very keen on growing their business accounts.

  4. Sylvain: I didn't know that HSBC evolved from Household Finance. Interesting. We now use Global Bank which, so far at least, is better for us.

    I have been following your Panamanian adventures and your new home construction with interest. I'm glad things are working out well for you there.

  5. Yeah, check out HSBC Watch ( ) for some eye opening stuff!