It was just last Tuesday morning that my dear wife was passing by the bathroom door. Suddenly, she heard a sound from the inside of the bathroom. It was a groan, followed by: “Oh noooo! Oh no! Oh nooooo!”.
That was me. Assuming I someday see my money again, we shall try to pretend that I didn’t overreact in the situation.
You see, there I was in the toilet, doing what everyone in 2014 does while in the toilet. I was reading my Twitter feed. And I chanced upon this tweet:
In less than 140 characters, this Tweet states: “Today the Bank of Russia took away our license. Forgive us.”
Now, I was just as aware as anyone that the Bank of Russia is taking away banking licenses hither and thither and yon in a crackdown on bad banking practices that, well, I don’t really understand. But they are bad.
And I would read the news in the morning, see another bank being closed and quietly congratulate myself that I had the sense to not open an account there. This time was different. It was the day the crisis hit me.
What happened in the ensuing minutes is a bit of a blur, but I recall barking conflicting orders at my poor wife, who had only very recently recovered from the shock of fearing that her husband had encountered the Grim Reaper in the water closet, now only to learn that it was simply the small matter of us not having any access to our money.
I rushed off to the nearest ATM machine. Somehow, I knew I wouldn’t be able to withdraw any money, but just in case I might be a genius, I decided to give it a try. Predictably, the machine told me to get in touch with my bank, but did not spout currency of any form.
Next, I made a panicked call to my accountant. She comforted me with, “It is in these times that I remember that the most important thing is that we have our health”. That was good, but somehow I found the following statement brought me more cheer: “I looked into it, and you should get your money back in the next few weeks.”
There is a small chance that later that same day, the bride of my youth may have mentioned that I had planned to withdraw said funds from the bank, but had procrastinated.
As I checked news headlines for the day, I found that out of the dozens of banks that had lost their licenses, Bank 24 was the first to say sorry. I guess somehow I wasn’t surprised to see that they said sorry, and even the very open statement in their press release that “this is because of our past sins” did not entirely throw me off guard. That is because Bank 24 was always a personal service oriented bank. When I called, they picked up the phone. In fact, they once made a mistake on some of my paperwork and sent a specialist to my home twice to fix it. That means that he didn’t manage to fix it the first time. Perhaps I need to get out more, but I don’t know of any bank that would have sent him out a first time anyway. When I had a question, I could get a hold of someone immediately and they made sure I was taken care of. Because of this, I sort of didn’t mind that it was a small bank.
What did surprise me is that even after they were closed, they continued to help me and answer my questions. That, together with their simple and open confession, helped me relax a bit. It’s surprising how far a little transparancy and asking for forgiveness can go. On the other hand, to be quite frank, I sort of wonder if that feeling isn’t still a bit contingent on me getting my hands back on my money.
I now see that in recent days, former clients have taped thank you notes on the closed doors of Bank 24. Where in the world does that happen? Probably only where someone was willing to go out of their way in service to another.
I’m now just one of the tens of thousands of folks in Russia who lost their bank. I will miss this one, but in a pragmatic move, I immediately went on Tuesday to open an account at a different bank. I won’t tell you the name of the bank, but I did see this sign (in English) on their door:
Yes, it’s true. All I need is Alfa. But all I ever wanted is Bank 24.