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A bank with no money

By Johnny Summerton
Posted Nov 10, 2011 in Business
So, this is the (true) story of a man (just for argument's sake let's call him Jean-Pierre) who tried to make a withdrawal from his bank but couldn't because, in the words of the clerk, "We don't actually have any money here."
The (in)action took place in France at one of the Courbevoie branches of BNP Paribas.
"The bank for a changing world" as it proudly boasts on its website, is "a European leader in global banking and financial services and one of the best rated banks in the world."
With over 2,000 branches in France it is the country's largest.
Courbevoie, in the northwestern suburbs of Paris and one of "the best places to live" (apparently) in the Île-de-France region which comprises the capital and the surrounding metropolitan area, isn't actually Jean-Pierre's home.
It's where he spends his weekdays as he works in Paris, returning to his home in the southwest of France for the weekends.
And it's in the southwest that, just over a year ago, he opened an account with BNP because, well to be quite frank, it offered the best terms.
He needed a loan for renovation work and the local branch manager was only too willing to offer him one at a good rate and without requiring him to move his main account from a competitor bank, Crédit agricole.
Jean-Pierre's salary continued to be paid on to his Crédit agricole account in Courbevoie for which he had an ATM card but he made sure he had more than enough on both his current and savings account at the BNP to cover any emergencies that might crop up.
It was, in a sense, an account purely meant to meet expenses to his main home: although he had a cheque book, he didn't have an ATM card.
"You don't really need one if you're not going to make withdrawals," the manager had told him when he had opened it.
"And besides if you do need money at any time, you can just drop into any of our branches throughout the country and get some."
Excellent, thought Jean-Pierre at the time. "It's not an account I'm going to be using that much. My main one is with Crédit agricole and I don't have to meet the costs of having a card I'm not going to need."
Oh yes he was - and still is - a frugal man.
Except, as you've already grasped, that's not exactly how it all worked out.
Because when Jean-Pierre went along to a Courbevoie branch of BNP this week to take out some money he needed to make a cash payment (with receipt - it has to be added) he was informed politely that, "Sorry we cannot give you anything. We don't actually have any money here."
A bank without money? Now that was something novel.
Well maybe not in these cash-strapped times.
There then followed one of those almost surreal conversations during which the clerk said that if Jean-Pierre had been a client of that particular branch then he could have requested an ATM card allowing him to make an on-the-spot withdrawal.
That would have taken time, money and paperwork, and anyway wasn't really a solution to his immediate needs.
"What about the other branches in Courbevoie?" Jean-Pierre asked, knowing there were at least two more close by.
"Do they have"
He tried hard not to snort with incredulity at the preposterous nature of his question.
"No, they don't," was the response."
"Your best bet, if you need some cash immediately, is to try to find a BNP branch in Paris that has some. I'm sure there is one. I just don't know where it is."
Now that's the kind of sound financial advice anyone wants to hear from their bank.
So dumbfounded, Jean-Pierre left and headed straight to the nearest branch of Crédit Agricole - where - what do you know - they actually did have cash on the premises.
The end.