Today I opened an Estonian bank account. This was a remarkably trivial process. I’ve had to open a variety of bank accounts in the UK over the last 20 years for both personal and business use, and every time the process has been more and more complex. I think the current requirements include 3 utility bills, 2 samples of DNA, and original birth certificates from at least 5 grandparents.

Here, on the other hand, all I needed was my passport. I didn’t even need to provide anything showing my address, which is good as I don’t actually have anything yet. The most difficult question was what my daily and weekly limits should be for ATM withdrawals! I had to fill in one form with general information, sign one document to get a debit card, and another to get internet banking, and I was done in less than 10 minutes. My account was set-up straight away, the internet banking was working as soon as I arrived back home, and my debit card should be ready for pick-up on Friday. I even got an apology for the fact that the slip of paper detailing my initial online password was in Estonian! (Everything else they gave me was in Estonian, Russian and English).

The on-line account has quite a nice login feature as well. I have a username and password both of which I choose myself (they gave me an initial password, but it forced me to change this on first login), and then each time I try to log in I have to give an extra six digit number from a little credit card sized “code card” that lists 30 different codes. It’s a much lower-tech version of those electronic SecureID devices and but still provides quite a good level of security and is much nicer than those pseudo-security questions (“mother’s maiden name”) etc that are so prevalent in the UK now.

I’m impressed as to how smooth and painless this entire process was. At least several UK bank staff have blamed “EU regulations” when I’ve commented on how ludicrous their processes have become, but presumably Estonia has to follow the same directives. It seems it would have been just as easy to get a Sterling account here as one in local currency, and there seems to be no requirement to be resident locally, so perhaps someone should try doing all their UK banking through an Estonian bank to see what happens…

Money Launderers of the World Unite

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