Use “Palanca” to continue

Way back in May, before we left Paris, Lief began the work of trying to open a Panama bank account for us. He corresponded by e-mail with attorneys, assistants, and bankers in Panama City. He placed phone call after phone call…

And he hit road block after road block, but he wasn’t deterred.

“We’ll get the account open as soon as we’re in the city,” he figured, “and can go in person to the bank.”

We’ve been in Panama two months now…and, still, no local bank account. Lief has continued to correspond by e-mail with the woman we’ve engaged to help broker the account for us. He and I have gone to meet with her in person…and to meet with different bankers in their offices.

We understood that we needed two letters of reference from other banks where we hold accounts, and, as well, because this is to be a corporate account, the documents of incorporation for that company. OK, no problem. But what else do we need, we asked?

No reply was forthcoming. Another meeting with another banker was scheduled, on the eve of which we received a cryptic, “Make sure you have all your documents for tomorrow” e-mail from the woman managing the process for us. But, still, no list of what those documents might be.

We turned up at the banker’s office at the appointed hour to find he wasn’t expecting us and, in fact, didn’t know anything about us. No preliminary conversation had been had, so we started from the beginning.

It came out in the course of the back and forth that another party is involved with the company.

“Does he live in Panama?” the banker asked. “Does he own property here?”

“Why does that matter?” we wondered.

“Well, if he’s not here, how can I open an account for you? All corporate parties must be present…”

In addition, we were handed (finally) a checklist of required documents for opening an account with this bank. It included, among seven or eight other things, a local utility bill.

Again, this is not a problem. We can produce local utility bills with our name on them. But we didn’t happen to have an electric bill in our pocket at that moment…

That was it for Lief.

“We’ll find another bank,” he remarked, as he got up and walked out of the banker’s office.

“Pull,” my assistant Marion replied this morning as we recounted the sad and sorry tale of our ongoing banking-related struggles in this country.

“The Panamanians call it ‘pull.’ Without it, you get nowhere.

“In Spanish, it’s ‘palanca.’ You can be a Ph.D. You can be president of a company. These things mean nothing unless you have palanca.

“My friend is the manager at one of the branches of Banco General. I will call her.”

Marion made a phone call. No problem, her friend assured her. Bring them in.

We have an appointment Monday.

Kathleen Peddicord