What’s yours is Mine and what’s Mine’s my Own
Which should be the motto of Credit Agricole, where I had an account with one of their branches in La France Profonde.
Rome was not built in a day, so I was prepared to wait for a relationship to develop with the counter staff…..I was aware that without a second cousin once removed in common my conversational appeal was limited and was content to join in the other ritual of making a transaction at the counter, that of shifting from foot to foot while the state of Tante Fanny’s fanny took priority.
It would have been a long wait at the best of times…..and in fact that relationship never was consummated due to the relationship with other parts of the Credit Agricole
I had sold a house and by some administrative mix up the demand for the taxe fonciere went neither to me nor to the new owners.
I was not expecting it. They weren’t either – despite the best efforts of the notaire to enlighten them when they signed for the house.
Accordingly, none of us paid it.
The reminder went into the black hole as well.
As did the demand which imposed a ten per cent fine for late payment.
Then I received a statement from Credit Agricole showing an unauthorised overdraft on my current account, where I kept just enough money to maintain activity.
My savings account was still virgo intacta.
I telephoned and was told that there was a problem with the tax office.
The tax office told me that they had appropriated the taxe fonciere that I had not paid from my bank account.
My dealings with the tax office are another story, but my dealings with Credit Agricole demonstrated clearly the difference between having an account with them and having one with La Poste, where I kept the bulk of my monies.
The Post Office in similar circumstances would have telephoned me as soon as the taxman struck to warn me and to let me transfer money between accounts. Credit Agricole smugly charged me for the overdraft and waited until the next statement day in order to collect as much as possible.
About this time I wanted to buy shares, and as the Post Office could not buy on the markets outside Europe, I had to go with Credit Agricole.
I impressed upon the ‘financial adviser’ that time was of the essence, given the state of the market, but, of course, by the time their regional office geared itself up, the markets had risen and I had missed a good opportunity.
I was following the share price on the internet and saw no buyers in the market for the amount I had ordered, so went into the local branch to complain.
The ‘financial adviser’ first told me that I could not possibly know whether or not the shares had been bought, and then, when I kicked up, telephoned the regional office, who reassured me that they were indeed getting round to entering the market, but, due to the amount of intermediaries they were using, it all took time.
Finally, the shares were bought and, as the market went on rising, I swallowed my annoyance until I received the statement with the charges for holding my shares…as in France the individual cannot hold his or her own shares…a financial institution does so and charges handsomely for this ‘service’.
Eyes watering from the financial pain, I went into the branch again and asked which registration institution was holding my shares…these days it is all electronic and the lovely old share certificates are no more.
Once more the ‘financial advisor’ called the regional office,and I put my question again. There was much huffing and puffing about why I wanted to know and I was finally told that this was confidential information which could not be divulged!
I later discovered, by other means, that my shares were being held in a nominee account, in the name of Credit Agricole!
Back to the ‘financial advisor’….who called the regional office. Oh, it was more efficient to handle shares this way.
But what happens if Credit Agricole goes bust? My shares are in its name and will be swallowed up by the creditors.
You have nothing to worry about, madame – said in such a way that the unspoken message of ‘stupid foreign bitch’ came over clearly. It could never happen!
This is Credit Agricole…a major French bank.
Well, I’d been with Credit Lyonnais when that major French bank went down the tubes few years earlier so her reassurance on that point fell on stony ground and I nipped down to La Poste to talk to them about transferring the shares….they couldn’t buy them but they could keep them.
Much shaking of heads. No way. Credit Agricole would just sit tight and I’d never get my hands on them.
They knew….. they had a client who’d been trying to transfer her shares for over six months.
So in the fullness of time I sold my shares and as I was leaving the ‘financial advisor’ asked me if I needed any advice on what to do with my gains.
She was a nice little girl, her lack of training was not her fault, so I did not say what was bouncing up and down on the tip of my tongue. It would not have been fair.
I waited until a Friday afternoon, went to my local branch, waited while the assistant had a conversation with her uncle and then asked to close my accounts.
No attempt to persuade me to stay was proffered, so I signed all the appropriate forms and was asked to wait while a cheque was prepared.
No, I want it in cash.
It took a time, because the safe had to be opened and they even had to have a whip round among the staff, but they finally made it.
I walked down the road and deposited it all in the Post Office.
And now this major French bank, which appropriates customers’ money for its own ends, is faced with its exposure to bad debt in the eurozone.
The regional office is closing.
And while I am sure that President Hollande will ruin every European taxpayer before he will let a major French bank go down….it may just be Credit Lyonnais all over again.