Banking on everything working
Are freelancers over-reliant on their banks? The crisis at Royal Bank of Scotland and its subsidiaries makes me think we just might be. Many freelancers will have been caught up in the computing meltdown, whether they bank with RBS or not, with payments from clients failing to arrive, or key payments due, both business and personal, not leaving accounts on time.
RBS’s travails have certainly got me thinking about my own affairs. In particular, I now worry I’m far too exposed to the services of one particular bank – it shall remain nameless for both its sake and mine – where I have an account into which business income is paid, another account for my personal affairs, and various savings products.
Were the worst to happen at the bank in question, I guess I could be in big trouble – possibly locked out of all the bank accounts I use. In which case, it’s possible I need to diversify, appointing one bank to look after my business account, while going elsewhere for a personal current account and somewhere else again for savings. I might then be able to use the latter banks as back up in the event of my business account going wrong.
As for RBS itself, I’d like to hear more about exactly how it’s going to compensate people affected by its mistakes – particularly freelance workers. It is one thing to say that no customers will end up out of pocket, but we need a bit more certainty about what this means.
Will, for example, RBS compensate freelancers for the time they’ve spent trying to sort out this mess? It’s time they could have been working, after all. And what about loss of business? Freelancers who have been wasting time trying to sort out their banking problems may have missed opportunities to bid for new work – or even jeopardised relationships with existing clients.
Freelancers and self-employed workers often get a raw deal from their banks. Getting a mortgage, for example, is rarely straightforward, while business services are often significantly more expensive than they should be.
As a bank that is four-fifths owned by the taxpayer, RBS ought to be setting an example to everyone else. As far as its treatment of freelancers goes, this crisis ought to be a perfect opportunity to do exactly that.