I fulfilled a lifelong dream yesterday by opening a Swiss bank account.
I took my place alongside Mitt Romney and countless others over the years who have longed for that special feeling. I took a part of my personal fortune, earned from years of shoveling snow, mowing lawns, and delivering newspapers, and put it in the safest, most reliable place I could think of, a country that has been known for its banking since the Middle Ages.
I now have a numbered account, but only in the sense that my account has a number, not in the sense that my account is secret, known only by its number, because it’s not.
In fact, I opened my account at one of the dwindling number of Swiss banks now interested in taking money from U.S. citizens. After years – centuries, in fact – of banking secrecy, the Swiss government recently agreed to change the way it does business. The U.S. authorities who pay attention to this sort of thing can now find out pretty quickly how big my fortune really is, should they be interested, which seems unlikely.
But my experience yesterday was a letdown for another reason. I have clearly seen too many movies starring people like Matt Damon who are fawned over and pampered as soon as they walk in the door. When I arrived yesterday no one asked me if I perhaps might like an espresso.
No, my experience, I have to say, was like going to the post office because, well, I did go to the post office. That’s where I opened my account.
Swiss Post is a lot like the U.S. Postal Service in that I’m pretty sure mail is delivered, but Swiss Post does a great deal more, such as offering bank accounts to Americans who need to stash their personal fortunes somewhere.
As I waited my turn in line, I noticed that the Swiss post office also sells lottery tickets, cell phones, other electronics, and candy. Beyond that Swiss Post owns a transportation system and has recently developed an electronic identity system. It is the second largest employer in the country.
So, the saga continues. This is quite a learning experience.
(For a well-researched, as well as humorously-told, article about Swiss banking, click here.)