The Garrulous Jay – Identity Farce

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About three weeks ago I was contacted by one of the so-called High Street banks. They informed me they needed proof of my identity for a business account to which I’m a signatory. What followed was all too predictable…

I was told that updating my ID was only possible in a local branch of the bank in question.

Our nearest branch used to be in Reepham, 5 miles away, followed by Drayton 6 miles away. Reepham no longer has any banks and the Drayton branch closed in November last year. The next nearest was in Aylsham, but that shut in January last year, six months after the closure of the Aylsham Road branch in Norwich.

In a number of these cases the bank has replaced the branch with a local “community hub”, but this cuddly sounding alternative offers no over the counter services and is designed to help people with online banking and app facilities.

I therefore resolved to go to the nearest remaining branch of the bank in central Norwich. Upon arrival I was greeted by a friendly looking chap straight out of Graduate Trainee central casting, to whom I explained what I needed to do.

He asked me what form of ID I had with me and I confidently presented my driving licence. He told me, “that would be fine for photo ID” and asked me what I had by way of proof of address. I pointed out the address on my driving licence to which he almost apologetically said that if I was using my driving licence for my ID I couldn’t use it for my address. I was stumped: my journey had been wasted.

Several days later I returned, armed with a hardcopy of a bank statement for my First Direct current account… Yes, I was trying to make a point: First Direct were the UK’s first branchless bank, opening for business on the 1st October 1989 and, unsurprisingly, they have never required me to go into a physical branch to do anything.

I was once again met by the Greeting Graduate who confirmed that, “If I spoke to his lovely colleague, Karen (not her real name), she would book me in to get everything sorted”. I explained to the lovely Karen why I was there and she obligingly said she would “waitlist” me.

As I was quite busy I thought I should ask how long the wait was… “About one to one-and-a-half hours, sir”! I left.

A couple of days ago we were contacted by the bank to say we could no longer access the account through their app, and it will be closed on the 28th August, after 32 years. We won’t be objecting.

Epilogue – I have since had to update my identity with an online execution-only stockbroker. I sat at my kitchen table, photographed my driving licence (only!), took a selfie, and had the whole thing done in less than three minutes.