Monday, 9 April 2018

Ethical banking in Spain (Part 2) - Opening an account with Triodos

Given the choice of Triodos in the Balearic I thought it would be suitable to open an ethical bank account and write about my experience as an expat. So here it goes.

I prepared my NIE and Passport and cycled to the center of Palma. The manager did not speak much English so as the words were technical in nature I struggled to interpret everything in Spanish. In the end we somehow made it work. To cut the long story short, I was told I cannot open an account with the current NIE document as it expired.

I left and called the solicitors who were dealing with my paperwork. After going backwards and forwards with questions a week later I was told the document is NOT expired and in fact it never expires. The solicitor instructed me to call and hand the phone over to the bank manager to understand the issue better.

A week later (on Friday) I made my way to the bank and this time I was directed by the bank manager to another person which speaks fluent English so it was much easier to handle more complex questions. And there were a lot. After being told the same response I called my solicitor and handed the phone who then continued to discuss the issue. In the end, this manager had to get the approval from the branch manager to at least initiate the bank account opening with my social security documentation. This documentation would be sent a day later and dated from today. Even then, the very professional manager had to go through various discussions with the legal team around the opening of the account, very long form fillings and many questions. She kindly asked if I could leave everything with her and she will attempt to process next week once everything is checked with the legal team. Having spent two hours in there I was keen to leave anyway.

By Monday I received the documentation from my solicitors who I then asked to send to the bank manager directly to avoid me going there for the 3rd time. The following day I was notified the account is now active and I am able to login online.

One other issue is that I need to call or I need to attend the branch to order a card which then arrives to my house.

After all the above, I can tell you that almost definitely you will struggle to open an account with a temporary NIE issued to all non-residents in Spain after three months of the date on the paper.

See here for a good simple guide on NIE and residency

A green card with your NIE (NĂºmero de Identidad de Extranjero) which has been extended or the green residency card. None which I have seen but this is what I am told by the staff at Triodos bank.  This was previously a green paper and its since been replaced. High difficulty opening

So here is my final bit..

Easy opening
You have a residency card (The tarjeta de residencia) which all Spanish have will simplify the opening and questions since they can trace your history.

Medium difficulty opening
A white paper with your NIE which you presented to the bank within 3 months of the date on the letter. Note that the validity of this letter or NIE never actually expires. Expect a lot of questions and forms to understand your economic situation and no guarantee you will be able to open an account.

Almost impossible opening
Same letter (on the right) only the date at the bottom of the letter has surpassed 3 months from the day you presented it to the bank.

Being Ethical and opening an account seems to come at a price. Its not convenient for expats who may resort to a simpler method and join one of the many high street banks dealing with the opening within an hour. This is the choice you need to make if you want to be ethical. I personally think this is where Triodos is losing customers given their competitors are making it far simpler. Their legal team seems to have made the process extremely complex (even for their own staff to understand) and have their own internal rules. Note that the NIE never actually expires nor does the validity of the paper. I love the fact they promote sustainability in the society but an ethical bank needs to feel modern. 

Score opening 5/10