Bison: A Review - subtitled: My (not so great) experience so far

I know most people on this board are generally very positive on Bison and seem to recommend it over BiG for US investors. I wanted to document my experience so far, that has left me wanting - not sure if BiG is any better, but if there are BiG US investors on this board, I would love to hear more from them on their experience.

Point of Contact
Nuno - seems to be the most common point of contact for most users here. I have found him VERY responsive - as in he responds to emails the same day (so there is usually a response when I wake up for messages sent the previous day). However, the actual problems take forever to solve and multiple reminders and emails to resolve.

Account Opening
I was sent a whole bunch of PDF documents to fill out and send. I filled the documents out and sent via Dropbox and they were promptly reviewed and some corrections pointed out which I made and resubmitted. They were acknowledged, and I was thanked and told to not forget to also drop the physical forms in the mail - I got the sense (my bad) that that was primarily for backup, and that the account opening could proceed with what I had uploaded (signed and scanned forms), because why else would I need to upload all these forms electronically. So I mailed them via US Mail.

Over two weeks later, when I enquired about the account opening, I was told they never received the forms and that accounts could not opened till they are received. So I then UPS’ed the forms and got acknowledgement they were received as I saw via tracking. Then two more weeks pass - and I send multiple emails and eventually get an out of office from Nuno, and then after pinging my lawyer to see if they ping their contacts at Bison, I get a response from someone else that it will take the rest of the week. That week passes - still no account. Then the following week, my lawyer threatens to take my business to BiG (which I asked them to help me do) and then suddenly the accounts are opened the same day. However, I do not get online access to my accounts for another day, as the “online” person is out. I also do not get my USD IBAN, for yet another 3 days after that - for some reason apparently only Nuno can give me that.

So to open the account and get online and all IBANs, it takes little over 5 weeks (including 2 weeks of delay for missing mail - which I was not clear was critical path) - and is with some threats from my lawyer to take my business elsewhere.

Wire Transfers
I sent some test USD wire transfers from US bank accounts to make sure they get there ok - before sending bigger ones for share purchase. One week after the banks confirm they were successfully sent, they are not in my account. I send all the wire confirmations and details to Nuno, who passes them on to his “operations team” and they disappear into a black hole. After pinging him almost every two days, a week or so later (about two weeks after they were sent), thankfully the wires finally show up in my account.

Share Purchase
I ask if I can just wire the money to the fund that I buying the shares from and I am informed that they (Bison) in fact need to buy the shares for me, and so I need to upload the share purchase agreement via online banking. I promptly upload the same and it is acknowledged immediately via email. A week later, I am still waiting for any update on the share purchase - the money is still in the account and no shares. Hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks the shares will be purchased.

Mobile App
A small nit, but for some reason the Bison mobile app is not the US App Store. So you can only use the website from the US.

Now I realize things are slower in Portugal, and maybe this is par for the course, but I would love to know if other banks offer better service. Maybe this is in fact great service, and I need to recalibrate what it takes to do business there.

I am worried because we need to make sure the applications can get submitted before all the other documents expire (given some of them have such short validity periods). And every step with the bank and purchases seem to take weeks not days to resolve.

I understand that it is frustrating. That’s how things work in Portugal. Yes, they require the wet-signed paper forms to open the account. They were crystal clear about that. That’s true at every Portuguese bank. I’m almost certain that the banking regulations require this.

For residency applications, you submit all of the forms electronically, then you wait and wait, then you strive for months to get your appointment when nothing is ever available, then you provide all of the original forms again on paper at your appointment. You sign powers of attorney over and over again. You FedEx gratuitous documents back and forth across the ocean at $160/pop. You get your background check done over and over again, and the apostilles, and the translations, and the certifications of the translations. $ $ $ $ $ $ $ $

Yes, they’ve seen the exact same FBI document thousands of times, but there is a process and you need to follow it exactly. If you do not follow the process, go to the back of the line, reflect, and try again. People from bureaucratic countries understand the drill. Americans complain and try to take shortcuts. Eventually they figure it out or give up.

A couple months after I subscribed to my fund, they hassled me about additional documentation requirements. I had no idea what they were asking for, and there was a language barrier. Thankfully Nuno at Bison, partnering with my lawyers, interceded and solved the problem with no further effort and frustration on my part.

Nuno has been AMAZINGLY helpful. I won’t divulge all of the helpful services he has cheerfully offered at no charge, because I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations, but it’s above and beyond. It’s the kind of help I’d expect from a close friend or relative.

Be realistic in your expectations and be proactive about delighting your counterparties, and you’ll flourish.

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