Thursday, 20 December 2012

Fürstenberg? Never heard!

HSBC Head Office in Hong Kong
The last posts may have been a bit too heavy so today I decided to "lighten up" a bit with a true story that always makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I remember it. I think this could be a good time to share it with you.

In 2004 I worked as a temp for a car leasing company. I was assigned to the underwriting team that was dealing with affiliates ie car dealers and franchises that wanted to sell personal leasing and did not have the resources to provide that type of finance. So... quite often a fax or letter would arrive with a request, a few bits of documentation, personal details, address, type of car, employment details, etc. All requests for underwriting were manually assessed and the Head of Underwriting had this constant shout "Last 3 payment slips! No payment slips, no car!". Only after, a thorough credit check would be made. My role was to verify if all the relevant and accurate information had been gathered by my colleagues, use common sense when not all boxes were ticked and then wait for the Shout of "No car!". The paperwork was kept on yellow folders with the name of the applicant visible for correct filing and retrieval.

One day one of my colleagues approached me a bit dumbfounded with a prepared yellow folder where the applicant name read "Princess Alexandra von Fürstenberg". The Princess was requesting a leasing for a 5 door Vauxhall Corsa for 2 years. He asked me "Is this a hoax? A trick from the media to test any double standards we might have?" I looked at the address, looked like a very posh place in London, details seemed to fit and told him to confirm with the affiliate who had made the request. He replied that the Princess had not attended in person but her Personal Secretary did.

I picked up the file put it on the pile of the Head and waited. A few hours later the shout of "No payment slips, no car!" echoed in the office and I started laughing (to myself by the way, didn't want to look rude) and retorted "Of course she does not have any payment slips, she is a Princess!". He replied "In that case I want to take a look at her personal bank statements!!!!!!" — I am laughing uncontrollably now while I am typing this by the way — "Look at her bank statements? You are a bit clueless on this..." I thought to myself... My colleague went patiently to call back the affiliate with the request looking more and more stupid by the minute. It was then agreed that a letter from her bank would be sufficient.


On the following day a typed letter arrived via DHL. My colleague showed it to me, typed in very expensive letterhead, with beautiful multichrome and the name "The Hong Kong and Shangai Banking Corporation — Head Office, 1 Queen's Road Central, Hong Kong" and signed on the bottom, hand signed by the President.   The letter was saying more or less that the bank would assume any financial responsibilities concerning their highly regarded client Princess Alexandra von Fürstenberg.

I took the letter to the Head, he looked at it and shouted "Hong Kong and Shangai Banking Corporation??? Never heard of it! An Hong Kong bank? No way! I want 3 payment slips!"

Suffice to say that the Princess did not get the car, not with this company. Neither would have Queen Elizabeth II.

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