So I just closed on an apartment in Lisbon today which is exciting, but it was a bit of a pain because of Bison.
For those that don’t know, Bison is a bank that is relatively easy to work with for Americans and they offer the IMGA Ações R shares, which I have quite a lot of.
I asked Nuno if we were able to get a “bank check” from Bison, in order to purchase a house. He said no problem. Ok, great. One less thing to worry about.
This was incorrect. We get to the signing today and the check is not a certified check (in Portugal, it seems the standard is to have a physical seal/stamp on it), it’s just a regular check drafted on a NovoBanco account owned by Bison. Ultimately, it was accepted, but we had to scramble and call Bison to verify it.
Then, we have to pay taxes. Most portuguese bank accounts seem to let you pay the state the same day, but Bison’s “pagamentos ao Estado” function only lets you send them the day after you submit them. Not great if the deal might fall through at signing (say, because your check is sus)
Anyway, just a friendly warning to y’all to send the money to your lawyer or make a different account to handle this stuff, don’t use Bison.
Bison is sort of a BINO (Bank In Name Only). It’s a wealth management entity. For the kinds of things they do, they want/need a banking license to operate, but having a banking license is not at all the same thing as being a bank in the sense of what most of us think of and expect of a bank. Thus, for any sort of retail function, they suck. No debit card. No reasonable MB access. SEPA xfers are a PITA relatively. No decent online portal. All of these things take work and cost money to do, and are very low-margin in nature - you need to have scale for those things to make any sense to do financially.
I deal with other entities like this. Nothing unusual. I had to exchange some old paper money because a country I operate in changed their bills. It’s the sort of thing you expect any normal bank to do. My bank literally couldn’t do it; my banker escorted me to the central bank, who did it for me.
(Which really caught me off guard. The (insert name of central bank of a first world country) has a teller window?! Why yes, yes they do. It was so oddly… ordinary.)
Hence my recommendation to open an activobank account. As a retail bank, they rock. At least by Portuguese standards. Certainly as good as most banks in the US I’ve dealt with.