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What Documents Does a Company Need to Verify a Customer’s Identification?

A friend of mine came from Taiwan to Upstate New York for graduate school. He wanted to open a high-balance account in a local HSBC. According to him, having a high-balance HSBC account in Taiwan and in the U.S. would allow him to transfer money between accounts without any transaction fees. That sounds like a good deal for international frequent travelers and students, doesn’t it?

Personally, I never had any banking experience with HSBC, but I know in the U.S., HSBC is known as “the world’s local bank.” People in Hong Kong call HSBC the “Lion Bank” for its high service fees (HSBC’s symbol is also two lion statues). This time, I experienced the extreme difficulty of doing business with HSBC. I wonder how HSBC would survive in such a competitive market.

I am actually well aware that a bank needs to verify a customer’s identification. However, I never heard such a long list of proof of identifications. To name a few:
  • Utility bills with a physical mailing address. Since my friend is living in a dorm, he was asked to get an official statement from the Housing Office in the school for proof of residency.  
  • Passport and I-20. 
  • Proof of residency of the home country. In my friend’s case, he was asked to get an official letter from Taiwan, stating in English that he actually lives in Taiwan regardless he has the Taiwanese passport.  
  • Proof of the student status. He was asked to get an official letter from the school, stating that he is actually a student registered in the school regardless he has the I-20 and a student ID with him.
If my friend was able to provide all of the documents listed above, then the receptionist will photocopy everything and submit his application to HSBC’s headquarter in the U.S. for approval. HSBC may or may not allow my friend to open an account after the bank reviews all the “necessary” documents.

Seriously? I was wondering if I were helping a friend apply for a visa. Does HSBC want my friend’s business? I took my friend to the Bank of America two blocks away. My friend opened a checking account and a credit card within 15 minutes. All he needed to provide were his passport and I-20. I can tell Bank of America value my friend’s business more than HSBC.

Hotels are different from banks, but if a hotel asks you for two or more forms of identifications before allowing you to stay there, what would you do? I bet you would probably walk out the lobby and go to the hotel next door, wouldn’t you?

References:
The picture (cartoon) was downloaded from guidetocissp.com.

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