Banking Changes For Rockall's New Year

For the 6 years I've run Rockall Design I've banked with the Co-Op. This decision was made on the fact that they're an "ethical bank" and it made be feel all green and eco-fuzzy choosing them. That turned out to be a mistake and I am now in the process of switching banks.

It's not that there's anything wrong with the Co-op as a bank. They've never done anything to upset me there. It's just that their online banking for business accounts is an absolute joke. What might just have washed 6 years ago as an acceptable solution is now laughable in how bad it is. So bad that I won't even try to do it justice by listing all the issues.

It always makes me laugh when I remember being offered the solution - "visit out of business hours". But, errr, hello, it's a business account. I don't want to be doing my business admin on the weekend thank you very much.

As the online interface is the only interface to my bank it has to be up to scratch. As the co-op causes me severe irritation at least once a month I've just had to take action (they've been promising a new interface for way too long) and I'm in the process of opening a new bank account.

What prompted me to do with was a junk mail from Alliance & Leicester asking me to open an account with them. Ok I thought, now's as good a time as any. So I applied online and waited. Two weeks later I rang them to find out they'd sent a letter to tell me I'd been declined, which never arrived. Apparently my credit rating isn't bad enough. Although if I wrote them a letter asking them to re-consider the likelihood is that it they'd accept. Yeah, right.

What is it with banks acting like credit card companies and only accepting accounts for businesses with debt. It's like being punished for doing well. No debt = no account!

In the end I opened a new account with HSBC, which has been "accepted in principle" and I await a call to finalise it.

Either way the co-op have lost another customer and judging by other online commentary I'm not the only one. Ironically I blogged about how bad co-op was 6 years ago, before opening the account, saying I wouldn't, but then did. Doh!

New Invoice

To celebrate the fresh start and inspired by the Invoice Like a Pro article on Smashing Magazine I have re-vamped my invoice to look like this:



  1. Cool. I like the design of the invoice. Funny I was thinking about this the other day with Regions. It seems they update the site every other weekend, when they do they take it off line.

    Question, why put your bank account information on it? European thing?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 10 Nov 2009 07:39 AM

      Most customers pay me electronically. Only every now and then do I get a che(que|ck). Works for all countries. I have US customers who can wire me the money using the information on the invoice. How do you normally do it over there?

      Show the rest of this thread

  2. Jake,

    I'm glad you didn't go with A&L in the end. We used them for UKLUG (which is a company now) and they were quite possibly the worst bank I have ever, ever used. Just don't get me started ;-)

    In the end we went with HSBC, who have been unequivocally brilliant. When setting up online payment with them, I got straight though to someone who updated the system whilst I was on the phone, said 'press refresh' and it was working straight away.

    Just like... well... proper customer service...


      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 10 Nov 2009 09:34 AM

      Glad you said that Warren as I actually had the letter to ask A&L to reconsider in an envelope ready to go, before I stopped and wondered what the hell I was doing. Binned the letter and just spent an hour down at my local HSBC finalising the account, for which I now have the account/sort codes. I'm free of Co-op!

  3. looks really good.

    The Rockall logo is excellent.

    • avatar
    • Tom Sparrow
    • Wed 11 Nov 2009 06:13 AM

    Funny, when I left NatWest a good few years ago it was for a similar reason. They'd spent 2 years promising to stop blocking Firefox (and actually done a better job at blocking it as time went on) 'in the next couple of months', so I left, to a bank that had customer service and paid interest measured in whole %.

    Funnily enough, apparently they relaxed and let Fixefox in a couple of months after I left.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Wed 11 Nov 2009 06:24 AM

      Natwest personal banking? I use that and can confirm you can now use pretty much any browser. That said, for some weird reason not even I understand, I only ever use IE for online banking. Maybe it's like how animals never go near the edge of a field after being zapped by an electric fence, even after the fence has gone.

      Show the rest of this thread

  4. Apply for an account? Waiting to see if you are accepted? Having the bank DECLINE to let you open an account because you have no debt?


    Sorry for the profanity Jake, but that just totally blows my mind. Things seem to be totally upside down. When you put your money into a bank account, you are lending them some of it. Which makes the bank the SERVANT, and you the MASTER.

    The whole idea of a bank declining my business (unless I have a demonstrated propensity for overdrafts etc) is so completely alien to me I just can't seem to get my head around it.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Thu 12 Nov 2009 07:44 AM

      Yeah I was shocked, but not really surprised. Banks are just businesses now (and always have been I s'pose) and there must be more money in them lending to us than they can make from borrowing ours.

      I used to think of banks as providing a service but now just see them as money-grabbers who care more about making as much money as they can and less about your needs. I can't go to a bank now without them asking if I'm happy with my whoever my mortgage, insurance etc is with. "Look I just want to pay a cheque in".

      While opening the new business account they were angling for me to move my personal accounts over to them too. I told them I was here as a business and that I'd rather not discuss my personal matters.

      Bankers the lot of 'em!

  5. I know this is a bit off topic, but what do you use for invoicing? Have you created your own Notes-based solution or do you use a web-based solution?

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 16 Nov 2009 03:41 AM

      I just use a self-baked Excel spreadsheet Sean. All very simple, which is normally the best way.

      In fact all my accounting is in the same workbook, which I then send to my accountants around this time of year. They've never complained so it must be ok.

      It just has columns for invoice #, who, when, how much, what the work was etc.

      The amount column is red if not paid and black when paid. The VAT column goes grey when paid (well, I change it to grey manually).

      Other worksheets record my VAT claims, expenses, PAYE outgoings, dividends etc.

      Nothing fancy but it works and has done for the last 6 years.

      • avatar
      • Paul
      • Mon 16 Nov 2009 04:18 AM

      Hi Seanl, I've started using the web based system caleld free agent. So far I'm very impressed, mostly because, apart from all the normal features (invoices, expenses etc) it can also do my VAT returns, saving me days each year. It also has an api so I was able to import my historic blinksale invoices. If you want to take a look use my referral code 33m48gvl and we both get a discount !

    • avatar
    • Nick
    • Mon 16 Nov 2009 05:25 AM

    Your not the only one.


      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 16 Nov 2009 07:51 AM

      Funny to see that, as I was contacted by the guy in the photo as I'd commented on his blog and he then contacted the Beeb. I'd offered some choice sound-bites to the journalist from the BBC but they'd didn't take me up on it.

      I see they're now saying a new system will arrive spring 2010. Too late. I logged in to my new HSBC account this morning and the online banking is miles and miles better.

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