I put up with the banking industry because I have to. And it's that attitude that keeps them in business, at least in Canada and the Bahamas. My limited experience in the US was a lot more positive, I think because a bank can be started by anyone, including your average five-year-old looking to diversify his online lemonade stand business.

In the Bahamas, the main public banks are, if you can believe it, Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova Scotia. The next competitor is First Caribbean Bank, the result of a merger 'twixt Barclay's and CIBC a couple of years ago. They are just as pretentious and underhanded down here as they are in God's country. Probably more so when augmented by the average Bahamian's idea of "customer service".

I'll focus my wrath on Royal Bank whom I'm currently forced to bank with. First stop: the hours. At some point in the last 100 years, banks got it into their heads that they were a professional service and should operate only from Monday to Friday. They took it a step further than most companies by operating only between the hours of ten and four.

But here's the thing: banks aren't professional services. All they do is store and dole out money. They take your money and give it to someone else, charging both of us in the process. In essence, they're pawn shops except that no actual goods are changing hands, just money itself. The difference is that pawn shops are open when *real* professionals aren't working, like Saturdays. Plus pawn shops have better customer service and don't pretend they're in it for your benefit. And they smell better.

I pay five dollars each month for internet banking at Royal Bank. Using software that is extremely outdated. I know because it's the same software I used when I banked at Royal Bank in Canada ten years ago. RBC in Canada has since updated their software, RBC in Nassau has not. When they say, "Import into accounting software," what they really mean is, "Download a file that can be imported into Quicken 1999 or earlier."

I pay a dollar each time I use a Royal Bank cash machine. But not if I go inside to the teller to withdraw money. At first, I thought this was backwards but then I realized that a dollar is actually pretty cheap not to have to talk to a bank employee down here.

But in principle, there is no reason I should have to pay *anything* for day-to-day banking. Deposits, withdrawals, transfers, paying bills. This should all be handed to me on a silver platter regardless of whether I do it in person or online or at a bank machine. This is the 21st century, for Jayzus sake. Make your money somewhere else. It's not like they make any significant percentage of their profits on service fees anyway. Drop 'em altogether and reap the benefits of more customers. Hell, print ads on the bank statements. It worked for Google.

In contrast to this are private banks, which the Hillbilly uses for his mortgage. Now THESE people deserve to be called professionals. It's an odd sensation to receive a personal e-mail from your account manager to confirm a deposit made not half an hour earlier. And in one of our initial meetings when it became clear our condo sale wouldn't be ready by the date on our mortgage papers, he said, "These things aren't set in stone, Mr. Baley, it'll start whenever you want it to start."

Now THAT took some getting used to.