Uncle FSA

Just before rushing to catch my flight back to Sudan, I thought I’d pop into Abbey National and do something with the embarrassingly small amount of life savings that I have there. Not take it out exactly, as others might have been inclined to do (given the penchance of Santander, the parent company, to back the wrong horse). After all, I’m kind of with those that optimistically think the British government will never let one of there banks to fail – they’ll ratchet up borrowing, raise taxes to unprecendented levels and sell the crown jewels before they allow that to happen. Rather, since my bond had just matured, I wanted to see what my options were.

Actually, I knew what my options were and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my money. And herein lies the problem. With less than half an hour before I had to leave for Heathrow, I wanted to nip in and nip out as quick as I possibly could. But those lovely regulators – I refer, of course, to the Financial Services Authority – just wouldn’t let me.

I stared incredulously as I was told that I would have to endure an hour long interview before they would let me do what I wanted with my money. No amount of arguing, or explaining that I had studied finance for a number of years, made any difference. I could have been Chancellor of the Exchequor and I’d still have had to endure said interview. It was maddening and pointless – shouldn’t one be allowed to sign a document or something, waving the bank’s responsibility for one’s own rash actions?

The outcome? I left without doing anything with being able to do anything with my money, leaving it in a low-interest current account until I had had this interview.

I fully appreciate the need for financial oversight, especially in these troubled times, but sometimes things are taken too far.

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