After the inspection and repair of the keel, I had some time just trying to settle in and preparing for the projects to come. But the most pressing issue at hand was to get my issues with the bank straightened out.
For you who doesn’t know, I managed to drop my cellphone in the ocean as I left Vigo, and with it my only way to identify digitally with, among other things, my bank. The system being used has become the way to identify on internet in Sweden today and thus I was having a hard time accessing not only my financial resources, but even buying things online since the system is used as a two factor authentication for my cards.
It made life… complicated.
So, when talking to the bank their only solution was for me to go to Sweden. So I went to Sweden.
Fortunately I have family here, so I have been staying with my sister for almost two weeks now, but lets start from the beginning.
In Sweden there are rather tough laws regarding money laundry, which puts a lot of pressure on the banks to make sure they know what their clients are doing with their money. Which can make life difficult unless you fit the normal consumption patterns. You know, getting salary in the end of the month, using most of it during the next month, potentially putting some aside for rainier days, using credit cards for any sizable purchases.
So my 90 degrees turn in life – buying a boat and selling everything I have and living off my savings – did set off some alarms in their systems, obviously. So my bank wanted to do an audit, or gain “customer knowledge” as it is called, and I could have been fine with that. But what also happened was that they started to treat me as I was a criminal and it was their job to find dirt on me. Everything was suspicious, and the way they spoke to me was as if I had done something wrong. But the worst part was that they didn’t want to give me my digital identification before they had done the audit. And since I needed it to trace my financial activities, it boiled down to remember every detail of any larger transfer I had done since the beginning of the year. A memory that has a hard time remembering what I did last month, so yeah, I was dreading that my future plans was in the hands of some bank clerk that would judge my memory insufficient and practically throw me out on the street.
I mean, I have spent quite a large amount of money on the boat since I bought it and I can mostly recall most of the transactions, but it isn’t enough since I also need to produce receipts for these transactions. Where some was left in the boat. In Spain. While I was trying to keep my cool in a bank office in Stockholm.
I had to go to the bank three times in total, first time they couldn’t validate my drivers license as the phone service they use to do so was down. Wow… “do you have a passport?” Well, yes, but I didn’t expect to have to bring it to identify myself, since a drivers license has been the way to identify oneself since… forever?!
Since they couldn’t verify my drivers license I had to return a second time. And since they couldn’t identify me I couldn’t have my digital identity back nor start the audit, as in telling me which transactions they wanted more information on. So I was dead in the water. The second time I had both drivers license as well as my passport with me, I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. So, after three days I expected that I could have my identity back, but they wouldn’t give it to me since they wanted more information for my audit. They used my identity as leverage to make sure that I would comply, which felt extremely demeaning and at the same time put me in a really hard position, since I couldn’t log in to any system of importance, as they require me to log in with my digital identity. Catch 22, obviously.
I hadn’t done anything wrong, but here I was, under suspicion and denied access to the digital part of the society as well to my money, effectively shutting me out of society at large, since I couldn’t buy a simple ticket to get into town. Thankfully my sister helped with that, but it was a frustrating situation. What did they think I would do if I got my identity before the audit? Run for it?
What I would have expected was that they would issue an identity with a short life span, let’s say a week, so that I could get into all the other systems to gather the information needed. I really wanted to help them so that this could be put behind me, but no, now it was up to a guessing game instead. They said a date and an amount and I had to start guessing. As I kept on guessing they wanted receipts to support that claim, which is understandable. But as some of them were in Spain, it was a bit frustrating. But the most frustrating part was the sale of the apartment, since they wanted papers on that, for sure. Since they were my bank on the occasion, I expected them to have some sort of records of them cancelling my loans and depositing money in my account. But no. “What was the deposit of 260 305 SEK on February 22nd?” I couldn’t, at first. I mean, February. I sold my apartment in April. But of course there was a deposit for it. If February, apparently. This is how it continued. The bill from the boatyard in Ireland. “Do you have papers on that?” No, it’s in the boat. The batteries that I bought from the Czech Republic, and so on and so on. But the culprit was of course my many purchases of Bitcoins. Ahhh…. Alright, yeah. I’m a crook. I bought a financial instrument the bank didn’t have enough knowledge to track down. Naughty me. “Can you supply an account printout of your Bitcoins?” Uhm… No. There is no such thing. There is no account, just a wallet. It is fully decentralized. I took a screen dump of my wallet, it had to do. The dates and amounts was there and it was accepted.
The Bitcoins was the only transactions that they actually commented and reasoned about, like they were trying to convince themselves that it is absolutely obvious that I was into no good buying Bitcoins. It was a known asset that criminals use to hide their money. Right. I gave a short introduction to Bitcoin and blockchain in general, and that their lack of knowledge was disturbing, as they are a bank and should familiarize themselves with this technology or be left behind. Not today, maybe not tomorrow, but eventually. Especially since Internet of Things, IoT, will require this technology to make fast, reliable and safe microtransactions in the future.
In all honesty, I wouldn’t miss the banks a second if they disappeared. Better sooner than later in my opinion. Unfortunately I’m too old to believe it will happen during my lifetime. But who knows, stranger things has happened, right?
So, here I am, sitting on my sisters sofa in Stockholm, with a new digital identity. Planning a short trip to Gothenburg this weekend. With a new bank, the old one is not keeping me as a customer, for sure, and a credit card from a third bank and a credit card that is using Bitcoins as a back end. I have learned my lesson, the irony is that the bank I’m leaving always has been “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” when it comes to investments. Now I understand the full implication of that.
Never use one bank. Never use a single point of failure for essential services, like paying invoices or debit/credit cards. Make sure that there are ways to get to my money, both offline as well as online. But most importantly, have multiple copies of my digital identity and make sure that they are still valid. For the irony is that I knew that I had my identity on my iPad, it is just that it had expired a month before I left for Ireland.
It has costed me quite a lot, not just financially but also energy-wise. I just want to get back to the boat now, to relax and plan the coming projects. Go slow a bit before it is time to go into hardcore project mode once again.
Don’t get me wrong, it has been fantastic to meet my family again, it was more than… eight? months since I last saw them, and meeting friends. But it wasn’t what I had in mind moving forward as I got to Spain and got the keel sorted out.
But now it’s all forward! I got some cheap phones that I can use for the time being and that I can have to store my digital identity on later, I got access to everything again and it is time to meet up in Gothenburg before I fly back home again! Are you in Gothenburg this weekend? Let me know!