One of the proactive administrative tasks Roger and I decided to do before we leave is open a Canadian bank account and transfer our worldly savings to the other side of the planet. Not scary at all! It’s also quite straight forward… when you’re dealing with the Canadian side of the transaction. The South African portion literally left me weeping.
As a newly landed immigrant in Canada, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) has a product called the Newcomers to Canada account, which allows you to open an account before you get there. It’s a no-fee banking account and a secure way to send money to Canada by wire transfer. The process to follow is explained by a key account manager who contacts you once you’ve initiated contact via their online application. It’s pretty straightforward.
Once we’d received notification that our bank account was open we decided to put our hard earned suspiciousness to good use and make direct contact with the bank to ensure everything was above board. Up until then Roger had been dealing with a lovely (I’m assuming) gentleman who goes by the name of Sam. But all communication had been through email. Who was to say that the bank account wasn’t Sam’s private savings account for holidays in Mexico? So we put a call through to the bank.
It took Roger a full 10 minutes to get them to somewhat understand what it was that we were trying to achieve by calling them! They couldn’t understand why one would need to verify a bank account if one of their staff had sent the details. Short answer: We’re South African and probably don’t trust anyone. After explaining that we wanted to see if it was legit our bank account, they kind of pretended to understand and gave their word that the account existed at their bank and not as part of Sam’s private portfolio. We were good to go! Just one thing remained to be done: the actual transfer of funds from our SA bank accounts to the RBC. I knew our final week in SA would be an emotional one; I didn’t think it was banking that would make it so!
I’ll describe our morning:
- Arrive at branch armed with what we were instructed to bring: plane tickets, tax numbers, SA ID.
- Wait in line.
- Explain to Forex teller what we’d like to do.
- Fill in many, many pages of forms.
- Explain again what we need to do after we identified an error on his part.
- Fill in more forms.
- Suggest we take the forms to Global Banking Centre to circumvent the collection and delivery process which would delay the transfer by two days.
- Go to the Global Banking Centre and explain what we want to do.
- Explain again what we want to do.
- Begin weeping in frustration (me, not Roger).
- Fill in more forms as the others were incorrect.
- Discover we had not bought the correct identification with us as instructed by another branch.
- Make a plan to find the correct documentation.
- Wait some more.
- Ask the consultant to fill up my water bottle.
- Meet with another consultant who contacted the dealers to obtain an exchange rate.
- Confer conspiratorially with one another.
- Give go ahead to buy Canadian dollars at the agreed upon rate.
- Feel sad when we see the converted amount