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Your Next Bank Account is Boarding

By: Charley Bolding-Smith Posted: January-19-2011 in
Charley Bolding-Smith

Are you the sort of person who likes to hang out in airport departure lounges, checking out the flash-packers and seasoned business travellers? Who takes quiet delight in listening to a robotic female voice announce flights to somehow numerical destinations? Whilst idling in marbled halls attentive to the quiet buzz of purposeful activity? Then open a bank account at Campu!

That’s what the day job required me to do recently. At the Head Office of the Cambodian Public Bank PLC, No. 23 Street 114, to be precise. So I turned up, fully documented and ready for frustration. I took my seat and settled down for the wait. The experience proved satisfactory. There’s that robotic voice for a start, informative but meaningless. I found it oddly soothing, like listening to the Shipping Forecast. The décor is (you guessed it) red and black against white, but in this spacious hall it works a treat. The long, sweeping, check-in, sorry, Customer Service, counter was a hive of activity with plenty of staffing. You’ve noticed that it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between airports and shopping malls? Well now add banks – and restaurants too for that matter – to the list, because in our cookie-cutter world all, er, Retail environments can offer the same entertainment.

The only problem with this particular lounge? It needs a decent snack bar - I was gagging for an espresso. Oh, and wi-fi too. Don’t laugh, it’s bound to happen. There’s a marketing opportunity staring someone in the face. Ezecom have opened a café in their Customer Service and Sales Office on Sihanouk, and it’s far less easy on the eye than the Campu ‘outlet’. Turns out, it’s also cheaper to get a bank account than an ISP.

I waited some more. The full-length modernist windows look great. The view’s no showstopper though. Instead of jumbo jets taxiing by throughout the day, there’s just the entrance drive-through in sight. Yeah, let’s talk about the ‘drive-through’ shall we? The building is so designed as to be almost impossible to access by pedestrians, entrance being blocked by the SUVs parked in the drive-through. You’re not supposed to actually enter and exit the precinct on foot, just be dropped and driven off (just like at the airport!). It’s a bit inconvenient, but provides an authentic Balladian touch to the adventure.

My wait was brief. The actual process of opening the account was pleasantly archaic but seamless. Of the 25-odd inky stamps available, my teller, oophs, Retail Management Associate, choose a variety of at least 15 to variously endorse, validate, authorize and date my documentation. I haven’t used a stamp in my professional career since the early Seventies, but here there’s a whole industry servicing the need. You see ‘Making Stamp’ shops everywhere on the street. There must be money in it. Which is more than can be said about my bank account.

I was immediately presented with my ATM card and PIN, which I could amend within five hours. No money had changed hands, so, okay, I wasn’t going very far when I could access my account. But at least I wasn’t waiting ten days for the card and PIN to arrive at the same time, like you do in the UK. Giving ample opportunity for Postman Pat to nick it. Admittedly the card is a bit plasticky, and bears a distinct resemblance to one of those pre-declined jobbies you get sent by mailshot. But it works just fine. I can regularly confirm that the balance of my account is zero.

Which is useful really. The next time I want to hang out at the airport I’m heading to Campu. It’s cheaper and a lot less stressful than flying.

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