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Pilgrim's Process

I’m buying and selling houses this year. Sounds very grand, but I assure you that there is minimal wealth involved here. Facts are that the last two junior family members are off to university in central London this September, so Plan 1 - Senior Management and I decided to sell the family pile quick, and move somewhere distant and smaller so that the post-graduate tribe may feel disinclined to return.

 Looking at the cash flow, as you do, we realised that the chaps in London would not initially qualify for student loans, and that they would each require funding up to £8,000 per annum. Excuse me – over four years that’s £64k! Palpitations in the wallet area, and stiff G&T applied for medicinal purposes. 

Much of said student funding is accommodation cost, so Plan 2 – buy a smaller family home and a flat in London to offset at least this component of student costs.

So here we are, some months into the project. The old family home is sold. Temporary accommodation is rented. The flat is bought and the new family home is identified. All this has caused a larger-than-usual churn in the bank account.

By coincidence, I bank at the same branch of the same bank as my solicitor and at least two of the estate agents I have been dealing with. Happy days, I thought. No trouble switching money between us as required.


I know some bloggers have written about this stuff before, but I have to add my ten cents. Once upon a time property conveyancing was fraught with delays while various parties wrote to each other, and while plans, searches and other documents were obtained by manual investigation and dispatched by post. Today, much of this stuff hurtles around at internet speed, whereas moving the money, which used to be the fastest bit of the process, now threatens to be the slowest.

Of course, you can pay to move the money faster – up to £35.25 per transaction I have recently been quoted. Otherwise, even moving money between accounts in the same branch of the same bank, you’re stuck with an arbitrary delay of +/- 48 hours during which time you are supposed to believe the fiction that some sort of clearing and settlement is occurring. Actually, of course, your hard-earned has been vacuumed away onto the money market for a day or two.

I knew, of course, that it would be to no avail, and I did check that there was no queue behind me before embarking on this, but being physically inside the bank at the time, I tried to have an interesting conversation with a bank official about drawing out cash and paying that directly into the beneficiary account.

Q. Would a cash transaction deliver same day cleared funds? A. Yes it would, but we would have to charge the beneficiary account for cash-handling. Q. What if we only pretend the cash bit – that is, I sign the cash withdrawal and give you a paying-in slip for the same amount? You pretend to go to the vault, pretend to get and count the cash, pretend to hand it to me, pretend to take it back, pretend to count it, process the credit, and pretend to take the cash back to the vault. We did the transaction ok, but you didn’t actually do anything with any cash-handling, so you shouldn’t charge the beneficiary.

The face in front of me looked as if it was about to explain banking reality to me, but sadly no words came forth and the eyes slowly glazed over. Although no better served, I felt some satisfaction, and left the bank looking some other blameless official that I could irritate in the world beyond.

I see that UK Faster Payments is delayed. Apparently some organisations are not ready. I wonder why? Presumably they have unanimously forgotten that, with no additional costs and no system changes, they have all been ready to deliver at least in-branch, and most in-bank, faster payments for some decades.


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