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Banking Part 2 or How and Industry Destroys Itself

Posted by on in Stories From The Field
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One year in a reread of my original "Choosing a Bank" seems like quite a strange journey into a far more naive past. In the year since I wrote that we've talked a number of other times about our experiences banking in Moldovan and moving money here (loansmoving money and the general state of the banking sector / the theft of the century). 

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_crook630_420.jpg

When looking for tie in here I punched "crook" into google images. This is first.
I like to imagine this man swooping into Moldova and stealing 1 Billion
Dollars leaving the country to destroy itself in finger pointing while he
rides off into the sunset. Oddly this is a more comforting
image than the truth...

 

Disclaimer: Can't stress this enough but take all of this with a grain of salt. Your experience may differ by your point of contact, size of company / account or even the tides. I can only tell you my impressions and you can take that as you will. As of now I would not consider banking with banks other than these three in Moldova (especially with the current crisis). That said, you may have a totally different experience. 

Bank International Affiliation Evaluation
 b2ap3_thumbnail_default-img_295.jpg Groupe Societe Generale (French Banking Giant)

Intro

When founding our company we chose Mobias Bank. This decision was largely fueled by their affiliation with Groupe Societe Generale - a large French Bank. This meant our money was insured by a larger international entity and therefore more secure than a domestic Moldovan bank (hopefully). This is the bank we have the most experience with so this is the most in depth critique by far... take that as you will. 

Pros

  • Our money is still there which says something
  • The service is generally polite 
  • Convenient locations and ATMs
  • No international scandals and a feeling of security because of their international affiliation

Cons

    • No Visa. Mobias Bank is exclusively Mastercard / Maestro. Want to accept visa cards at your restaurant (like 99% of the world's business)? Nope. (we created a contract with MAIB to process our cards - they then send the payments to Mobias in 3 days... after taking a fee)
FEES
    . So many fees. Wanna check your balance? Transfer money? change currencies? FEES. 
    • It's normal to negotiate the exchange rate on international currency changes with your bank here. For a company of our size they are not interested in this so they just charge us what they want - this is higher than the national bank rate but what can we do?
    • We have a business debit card. If we want a 2nd card it will cost 150 euro. If we lose this one it will cost 150 euro. 
  • They are dumb. As was discussed before we had some trouble moving money between out US and Moldovan banks but eventually figured it out... or so we though. We recently processed a loan between our companies - identical to previous ones - and they refused to process it. They froze our accounts "pending review by the national bank." We went in and asked "why?!" and they said "because you did the paperwork wrong." We replied "you approved and filed the paperwork we needed and this is our 2nd time doing it." They replied "not really our problem." 2 days lost trying to sort this out - not one person at Mobias wiling to help or accept any responsibility. Bottom line: if it isn't in writing with a stamp assume your teller is at best wrong or at worst lying to get rid of you. 
  • No Loans. Of the 7+ banks we talked to in Moldova Mobias was the only one that refused to let us talk to a loan officer. The other banks were less than helpful but at least we talked. Our Mobias rep refused to let us waste one of their officer's time. Quote. The other banks gave us terms and we were strangers. Mobias has tens of thousands of our dollars in their account and wouldn't give us the time of day.  
  • HORRIBLE online banking.
    • It requires a program that needs to be installed on your computer and tied uniquely to that computer for ever (aka if you want to access via another computer you need their tech team to create you another custom installation disk for 1 time use - takes min 2 weeks). 
    • It looks and feels as if it was made in the mid 90s
    • It has no exe file to the installation and requires you to manually install dll files in windows based on 2 instructional videos that accompany the film
    • ...did I mention it was really old?
 b2ap3_thumbnail_Pro-Credit-Bank-d-d-.jpg Procredit Group (headquarters in Germany) Intro

We essentially dismissed ProCredit a year ago because of their relatively small footprint in Moldova. Looking back I don't feel that this was a particularly well informed decision and that they warranted more consideration. The points below come from a mix of friends experience and information gotten from development / investment groups over the last year. 

Pros

  • ProCredit is designated as a small business investment bank in Moldova. In theory they should be looser with credit than the other banks here (and charge correspondingly higher interest). 
  • ProCredit was used by the US government for their banking in Ukraine just as MAIB is used in Moldova. This is a different branch of the bank but still represents a strong vote of confidence for me
  • ProCredit has avoided all the major scandals in Moldova and maintained their affiliations with international institutions
  • ProCredit has a great rep with business development agencies here and is their #1 recommendation when I mention the difficulty of getting credit, etc. I wish we had gone there just so I could tell them why we didn't take their offer

Cons

  • They are hesitant / unwilling to work with Americans at this time due to FATCA. Two friends of mine tried to open an account there for their Moldovan SRL and were rejected because of their unwillingness to go through the trouble of complying with America's comically stupid legal over-reaches (if you feel like reading equally comically stupid tirades against the law + occasional decent commentary check this link). Bottom line: if there's an American in your company forget it. 
  • I did not visit them looking for loans (one of the only banks) because a friend I trust strongly warned me against it because he believed them to be untrustworthy and guilty of forcing defaults to seize collateral. In retrospect I believe that to have been more of a personal prejudice than anything else but it's hard to say. Not really a con (possibly a missed opportunity for me) but worth noting. 
 b2ap3_thumbnail_logo_maib_pn_doc.png None - Domestic Moldovan Bank Intro

 

MAIB was our strong 2nd option for a bank here. The fact the Peace Corps and the US gov in general banks with them gives me a high degree of confidence. Furthermore, all of our dealing with them have been very professional and helpful. We passed because Moldova was being rocked by a domestic banking scandal at the time (Filat being ejected being of associations to possible money laundering at Banka de Economia).

Pros

  • Professional. We talked to 2 loan officers at MAIB and both were willing to work with us. One actually worked for a few days to put us together an offer. Furthermore, our interactions with them for card processing have been great. 
  • ATMs everywhere
  • Easy card processing - LOTS of businesses here process via them

Cons

  • Domestic bank - with ongoing scandals this is always concerning
  • Did I mention the bank scandals? MAIB hasn't been involved but.... why would anyone put money in a Moldovan domestic bank right now? right?

 

 

Conclusions:

If we had to do it again we would have gone with MAIB. We have grown to dislike Mobias over the past year and there isn't much of a way to shake that right now. The lack of VISA processing is frustrating and the online banking sucks but most of all it just feels that they do not want you as a customer. Our business account representative is very nice and helpful but is pretty clear where they are and aren't willing to work with us. We pay LOTs of fees and change money at a crap rate and can't see a loan officer even to say hi. This isn't how you treat a customer you want. Their schitzophrenia as to what we are and are not required to file with them for international loans is the icing on the cake. A major bank that can't give a clear answer about how to transfer money into their accounts isn't really worth your time are they?

I can't say if we're gonna change banks because that sounds like a TON of work and time. What I can say is that I'd like to try someone else. For all that negativity though Mobias is safe and, more or less, made account set up easy so for a new business they are at least an option. 

 

While I have you here...

Wanna see somethin' funny? Check this picture out:

b2ap3_thumbnail_IMG_20150826_125340653.jpg

 ...that is a paper report of our sales for a month. This information exists in our POS system, in our accounting program and is summed up in government reports every month. Sound like enough bureaucracy? ha! nope. That stack of papers must be printed out and every. single. page. needs to be signed and stamped by the company administrator. Then we keep it for our "personal" records just in case the government ever asks for it. 

If anyone has a story on bureaucracy / time wasted that can beat printing, stamping and signing hundreds and hundreds of pages of useless reports just so they may be stored (for 3 years) in case someone from the government wants to come by please post in the comments. I'm *interested*

 

 

 

Closing Note: I know I'm not publishing according to my schedule in August. It was a long long month. I'm trying to play catchup here so I'll do my best to get a new post or 2 up soon - sorry for the delays!

 

 

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(Site Admin, Entrepreneur, Contributor)
David is a native of the great Commonwealth of Virginia and lived there through high school in Fairfax County. After high school he pursued a degree in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta Georgia. During his studies his traveled to Singapore for a semester and gained a respect and love for traveling and immersing in different cultures. After graduation David joined the United States Peace Corps and was posted first in Kazakhstan as an English Teacher and later in Moldova as a Community and Organizational Development Consultant.

When not working on his startup David can be found maintaining various web based side projects (check out: salutmoldova.org) and working on his 1986 Lada Жигули 2101 named Надя (Nadia).

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