Saturday, June 25, 2011

Dutch banking

A key part of moving to a new country is getting a bank account set up.

In many places deciding who to bank with can be a tough decision because there are so many options. Fortunately, that's not a problem here, as there's only one bank in the country that has a web site and online banking available in English. So ABN AMRO it is.

Coming from Canada I actually find this somewhat amusing, since Dutch-based ING is pretty well established in Canada as a primarily web based retail bank offering services in English. But here in their home land it's Dutch or nothing. That's too bad, because I've kind of always liked the angry Dutch guy in the Canadian ING ads.

Of course, I do see opportunity in this situation, since I am the GM of a digital marketing company that builds web sites in lots of different languages on behalf of our clients. In fact, for one of our clients we're currently building a site that will be rolled out in over 80 regions. So if any Dutch bankers read my blog - call me, we can help.

There are many other interesting things about the Dutch retail financial sector that I'm still learning. Like how credit cards aren't really credit cards. And how the PIN card works. I'm sure I'll write about these later but, to be honest, I haven't figured them out myself yet. Which is a little scary, since I am using a Dutch credit card now.

But the one other adventure with Dutch banking that I just had for the first time today was dealing with online banking. Apparently just entering your account number and pin code isn't enough here. You also need to have your e-dentifier with you, to insert your card into when you log in, so that you can verify exactly who you are.

Now, this isn't the worst idea I've ever heard. It's a nice bit of added security. But it certainly does hamper the convenience of online banking. Now that we're in a "what you want, when you want it" digital era restricting the use of online banking to situations where you've actually got to have, on hand, a clunky device that's larger than most SmartPhones feels somewhat regressive. But, like the lack of English web sites, this feels to me more a market opportunity for competition than it is a real problem.

The other added challenge of the e-dentifier is that it doesn't come with instructions in English. That shouldn't be surprising, and the English portion of the web site should explain things, but it doesn't do that terribly well. After plugging the e-dentifier into my laptop with the supplied USB cable, I couldn't get it to do what the site said it should be doing. Only when I searched for other information did I learn that I shouldn't have plugged it in. The USB connection is completely unnecessary. So, why does it come with a USB cable? I have no idea.

But I eventually figured it out. I'm all set up and am semi-aware of my financial situation. Just one more step in getting set up in our new home.

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