It’s been said that the hardest part of a new entrepreneur’s journey in Finland is to open a bank account. It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. It’s especially hard for immigrant entrepreneurs, but it’s not easy for native ones either. To help my fellow entrepreneurs, I reached out to every bank to see how they treat entrepreneurs. Here’s what happened with each bank.
Danske Bank: Will treat you like dirt. Costs about 20e/mo for basic business usage and functions decently, if you don’t mind being lied to and being misled. That includes having to guess exactly how your business will perform in the future and being kicked out for guessing it wrong.
Holvi: Could be good, but they’ll serve only a few company types, and their sign-up process was broken when I tried it. The pricing is clear and very competitive at 6e/mo to 12e/mo for most use cases, and the users that I know actually like them.
Revolut: A fast sign-up process online. Many steps, but can be completed in one go, unlike most banks that require weeks to process your application. Sign-up doesn’t cost anything, and you can also choose to have no monthly fees, in which case transaction fees are a bit higher. But every time you use it, be prepared for the most tedious processes, whether it’s logging in or trying to get support. Which you will need, because they constantly fail to complete payments.
Suupohjan Osuuspankki / POP Pankki: Their pricing feels like a ripoff. You pay a monthly price for the account. An additional monthly price for online access to it. Yet another one for a payment card. You then pay extra for each payment you send. And received. And for every time you review your transactions. Or if you get want a monthly transaction summary. Or if you want to receive invoices online – in which case there’s also an additional minimum monthly fee. Or if you want to send invoices online – for which there’s yet another additional minimum monthly fee. They don’t charge for opening an account, but they’ll charge you every time you inhale from that point onwards. And they’ll still take a few weeks to open the account.
Nordea: You’ll have to pay 230 euros to open a business account with them. 130 euros for opening the account. And 100 euros because you’ll have to visit their physical bank for it. They will take a few weeks before they’ll manage to get your account open, and charge you to the tune of 20e/mo month for having it. They’ll require you to provide all kinds of documentation about your company that they could get automatically through the Finnish registry, but just want to make you jump through extra hoops, while charging you 230e for it. It’s also worth noting that Nordea was one of the three companies that originally started the mass lying to customers about ID copies being required by the regulator (which they aren’t).
Aktia: Charges at minimum 230e to open a company account. 100e for each account opening, and 200e/h for opening the account, with a minimum of 130e. Because it’s per hour, you’ll have no idea how much will they actuall charge you. The ongoing fee is 10.50e/mo, which isn’t too bad, but then they have some mysterious Web Services channel, which costs 20e/mo, plus 20e to open and 20e for any change done through it. I don’t what it does, but knowning how nasty Finnish banks have become, you’ll probably need it. And 5e/mo if you want digital invoicing. And 30e/mo if you want to set up recurring payments. Also, they’ll rip you off for approx. 0,50e every single time you: 1) view you transactions, 2) get a monthly transactions summary, 3) receive a payment, 4) send a payment, 5) receive a digital invoice, 6) send a digital invoice, and so on.
OP: Similar situation as Aktia, but I have even fewer written records of their replies to my emails. I think they called me once and said it cost a lot to open an account and took a long time, at which point I gave it a pass. Only now that everything else seems potentially even worse, I’m giving them another shot. I’ve emailed them again today and will update the results when I get them. It’s also worth noting that OP was one of the three companies that originally started the mass lying to customers about ID copies being required by the regulator (which they aren’t).
Handelsbanken: They refuse to take new clients who just want to use the basic banking service that they can provide automatically. They refused to tell anything more unless I was able to describe which broaded range of services I’d want to use.
Nooa / Säästöpankki: Opening a company account costs 200e. They will also charge you for every incoming transfer: 0.18e if it has a reference numbers, 0.55e if it doesn’t. So if someone sends you 0.01 e, you’ll lose 0.54 e. So if someone sent you 10 euros in 0.01 e pieces, you’d lose 540 euros. They’ll also require you to provide them with a lot of documentation of your company, which they could get automatically from the company registry, but just want to make you jump through extra hoops while charging you 200e for it.
N26: Signing up was surprisingly easy. I’m going to explore this more.
Overall I’m baffled about the anti-customer behavior of most banks, and the huge problems in customer service of the few that actually seem to appreciate their customers. I think a part of the blame lays with EU and its financial regulations, which seem to be really hurting everyone and not helping with anything. But a part of the blame definitely lies with each bank. They’re all failing in slightly different ways, and fulfilling their regulatory obligations, so it doesn’t seem that the regulations go all the way to prevent any bank from being much better than they currently are.
This is way too much information for most people to be interested in. But if you’re for example working in one of these banks, and want to know what to change to make it a great bank to use, here you go. I also have way more info to share on most of these if you’re really interested and can do something to help there be a better bank for entrepreneurs to do.
Danske Bank: Will treat you like dirt
I used to have my personal banking in Danske, so when I founded my company two decades years ago, I opened the account in Danske. Things worked tolerably for a while, but over time they became more and more hostile towards customers, especially entrepreneurs.
For example they will tell you they need to take a copy of your ID, and then systematically lie that it is because the regulation forces them to take a copy of that. And then link to the regulator’s website that clearly says no such thing is required. This was far from the only instance they behaved this way. Danske Bank just doesn’t care whether they’re lying or not; for them it’s a normal course of a business day, and hundreds of their customer service agents are trained to lie, and don’t care even when you point to them that what they just told me is a proven lie. Their managers require them to keep lying to keep their jobs, and they’re fine with lying for a living.
I don’t know about you, but for me it’s hard to trust my money to an organization that just plain likes lying to me. Still, for some reason, I did, for a long time.
The last straw came as they started pressuring all entrepreneurs to fill in a form where we had to guess how many transactions we’ll have in the coming 12 months, how big would each of them be, from which countries, how many from each country, how big from each country, and so on. I asked them what on earth is this for, why are they asking such detailed questions about the future that can’t possibly be guessed correctly by most entrepreneurs, and are there ramifications to guessing incorrectly. It’s outright absurd that your bank forces you to play a guessing game with exact numbers. It felt like a horror game: What happens to my ability to send and receive money if I guess wrong?
They told me that they’re legally forced to ask for these exact things by the regulator, which I knew to be a blatant lie. Other banks didn’t ask the exact same questions at all, so these were Danske’s own invention. The regulator may have compelled banks to have at least some idea of the companies they were serving, but they didn’t force Danske Bank or anyone to ask such ridiculously specific questions. Danske Bank just really doesn’t like taking responsibility of anything they do.
Luckily, it seemed, Danske Bank representatives swore to me that filling the form is just a formality and will have no effect. After they froze my account for not filling the guesstionaire, I got it unfrozen by promising to answer some random numbers. I did as promised, and tried to get the ballpark range right: tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or so. But some questions were impossible to answer. For example, from which countries will my company receive payments in the next 12 months. Hopefully from every single one! This is the 2000s, where you can sell anything everywhere online. So shall I spend all evening copy-pasting all the country names on the Earth from a list to their form, which accepts them only one by one? What if I write a country and won’t get a sale there? What if I get a sale to a country I didn’t add on the list? There was no way to answer this question precisely. I’m selling things on a daily or monthly basis, not 12 months into the future. But Danske Bank swore that this was no issue, filling the questionnaire was just a formality so they could say to the regulator they had filled it.
Except that a few months later they sent me a letter that they’ll end their service for me. No explanation as to why. I asked them, and they just said they never explain. I told them that perhaps it was a misunderstanding that should be cleared. Perhaps they were confused why some of my answers to their form were as they were – because the form offered zero chance to get them right. I have run a legitimate business for around 20 years, and they knew each and every transaction I had done over that time, and knew everything I did was legitimate. But who knows. Perhaps they just like being evil with impunity; I had exposed a bunch of their lies online. That may have annoyed someone there who liked being hostile to entrepreneurs and hated responsibility. I heard they kicked out some other entrepreneurs around the same time though, but who knows what triggered this purge.
The only thing I do know is that they hated serving a small entrepreneur that netted them over 20 euros/month. That’s a hefty price to pay for a 100% automatic service, so I was happy to leave. Other banks would have to be more reasonably priced and less hostile. Right?
Holvi: Only serves some company types
I heard a number of recommendations to use Holvi. They seemed nice, they said they’ll require much less answers to detailed questions than Danske Bank, won’t require a copy of the ID etc. Everyone using their service seemed quite happy. They were also way cheaper than Danske: basic package 6e/mo, one with many helpful extra feature 12e/mo.
There were only two downsides. First, when trying to register in their system, they required to confirm your email, but the email never got through. Not after multiple retries over multiple days, or reaching out to the customer service, who wasn’t able to help in this at all, just replying a week later “it should work, just try again”.
Even more importantly though, they only serve some types of companies: LLCs and sole proprietors. They absolutely refuse serving Partnerships or any of the several other types of companies in Finland, although they are all identical from a bank transfer point of view as far as I can tell. They also refused to answer my question as to why they don’t serve other company types: “We just don’t, but hope to in the future”. They’re over a decade old, so if they wanted to serve those other clients, they would have done it already many times over.
Wise: Doesn’t serve Finnish clients
Wise was also recommended by several people. However, after registering with them, they said they’re not taking new clients from Finland at the moment, but took my company on a waiting list.
Revolut: Fails transfers regularly and is record-tedious to use
After trying Revolut for a few weeks now, the experience has been very mixed, but generally negative. They have a lot of potential and get many things right, but also get so many so basic things wrong. Things that you could be excused getting wrong if you’re a startup building your first prototype, but not when you’re a well-established company with a billion-dollar valuation, like Revolut.
The last three times I tried to send money out from there, it failed. It is pretty crucial that when I send money out to pay an employee’s salary or a contractor’s invoice, the money actually leaves my company’s account and ends into the recipient’s account. But here’s how that has worked the last three times with Revolut.
- I send a payment through the Revolut website.
- I have to confirm multiple dialogs on Revolut.
- They require me to log into my Revolut app.
- The Revolut app requires a passcode, because I didn’t use it for one minute.
- After entering the passcode correctly, there’s a long wait until it lets you in.
- Revolut’s app loads the account overview screen and waits a few seconds.
- Revolut’s app loads a confirmation dialog.
- Now you can click Confirm and return to the website bank on the desktop.
- Revolut says payment is now confirmed and all is well.
- Next time you log into the bank, let’s say next week, you’ll notice that the payment failed to send.
- You go and review the transfer details: “Confirmation by you: Ok. Sending money to the other bank: Failed. Money received by the receiver: Failed.” And that the funds were returned to your account. That’s all the information available. There’s zero explanation as to why the transfer failed.
- You go to the transactions list.
- You click this specific transaction.
- You click “Why has this transaction failed?”.
- You get to a screen that says “Transactions sometimes fail for some reasons. If you want to know why, check the transfer details.” I had just checked them, and they told nothing. Also, why don’t you actually answer the question of why has this transaction failed, when I click that precise question?
- There’s also an option of “Request help with the transaction”. To emphasize, that’s an option when you’re viewing one individual transaction.
- When you click it, it asks you who was the recipient and in which country. Why do they ask this? I’ve already chosen which exact transaction I had an issue with, and the receiver is specified there.
- After that, they’ll ask the currency denomination of the transfer. Which they also already know, and you shouldn’t need to manually type it again.
- Then they ask for the amount. Which they also already know, and you shouldn’t need to manually type again, but you’ll now need to open another browser window or the app to find out what was the exact sum Revolut so conveniently forgot.
- Then they ask what was the problem. For which there’s nothing much to say except that the transfer failed (which they know), they failed to tell you what was the reason, and they made you jump through hoops to get there.
All of which I’ve told them multiple times by now.
- Once you complete this, it will open a support chat.
- It takes them typically 15-30 minutes to respond to a chat. Which is reasonably fast by bank standards, but…
- Their website automatically logs you out after 5-10 minutes of inactivity.
- They don’t offer a convenient re-login process by just re-typing your password like e.g. Danske Bank does, but you must undertake the full log-in process.
- …which is the heaviest of any bank I’ve seen. You type in your email.
- Press enter and wait.
- Type in your password.
- Press enter and wait.
- They sent you an email to confirm you’re you.
- You open your email in a new browser tab.
- Log in with username.
- Then password.
- Wait for the email to load.
- Open the folder to which their emails come to, e.g. “My Company’s emails” as this is a Revolut Business account we’re talking of.
- Their email hasn’t arrived, so you’ll have to wait around for a minute or two.
- When the email finally arrives, you open it and click the link there.
- This opens Revolut in a new browser tab, in which you’re now logged in. That leaves you with the other Revolut tab also open, where you originally entered your email and password, but which is stuck in a state of showing “Check your email to log in”.
- Or, if you’re using the app, then you go through the process of opening the app, entering your passcode, waiting for that to be accepted, waiting for the account overview screen to load, waiting for the confirmation dialog to load and take over, and then to be able to click Confirm.
- Remember where we were? Waiting for Revolut to answer the support request ticket. The above login process is what you want to really avoid, but which happens to you if you’re not using their browser tab for a few minutes, so you’ll try to click around in Revolut’s website to avoid them forcing a logout on you.
- When the customer service finally answers, they often don’t get it right in the first try. They might ask you questions that you already answered in their form that opened the chat – happened to me many times already.
- Then when you answer them, they might take over half an hour to reply. The last time I kept the browser tab active and it took them 40 minutes to give the next response, which was “I need time to investigate the additional things you’ve written”. At which point I gave up, and let their system log me out.
- I received later an email that showed that they had later answered a few of the things I had written, but not really solved the issue. So the next time I log into Revolut I’ll get to choose if I want to re-open the chat and ask them to do help me in what I originally asked them to help me with: to tell me why a transfer failed, to help complete it, and to tell me how they (or me) can avoid that happening in the future.
- They also have a Retry Payment button, so you don’t need to re-type the payment details. But as they don’t tell at all why did the payment fail, I don’t understand why manually Retrying it would help. In any case, I tried that the first time the payment failed, opened a support ticket, and went through the whole process above. The next time I logged in that payment had actually completed, but their customer service messages didn’t indicate at all why that would have completed, what was the issue originally, or anything. I have no idea why it failed in the first place, and the customer service didn’t say that they had anything to help it complete after I had pressed the Retry button. So it seems that it’s completely random whether payments go through.
Today I tried making two payments. They both failed. The first time I was willing to give them the plausibility of something very weird happening – maybe something at the receiver’s end, as I hadn’t paid them before. But then I tried today to pay salary to an employee, as well as the invoice from my accountant, and both of these just immediately failed. I sent another “Get help with the transaction” and filled all the details specifying which transfer I wanted help with, even though Revolut already knew those.
At the same time I came to the conclusion that Revolut is not worth the hassle. Their onboarding process was way faster than with other banks, their UI is delightfully simplified from the clutter of most banks, they have an option to send automatic email notifications to receivers when you pay them and many other nice features, but the core features of logging in, paying and getting support are beyond tedious to use.
Suupohjan Osuuspankki (part of POP group): Charges you for *everything*
I was originally delighted by Suupohjan Osuuspankki / POP Pankki saying they didn’t have an opening fee (some banks charge hundres of euros to open a company account). Their monthly fees were also reasonable, similar to Holvi’s.
However, the pricing structure felt sneaky from the start. Every single component of the basic service package had a separate cost. You want a bank account? Monthly fee. Online bank? Another monthly fee. Payment card to use the account? Another monthly fee. This was the opposite of a clear and customer-friendly “All this for just this fee”, hiding expenses all across the board, so I became suspicious and checked their price list.
I was almost about to open an account when I had a look at their full price list. Luckily their sneaky monthly prices had gotten me suspicious. And it turns out these are the sneakiest bank I’ve come across in ages. They charge for *everything*.
Want to make a payment? Extra fee.
Want to receive a payment? Extra fee.
Want to view your transactions? Extra fee.
Want an automatic monthly summary of your transactions? Extra monthly fee.
Want to receive an invoice electronically? Extra fee, with a minimum monthly fee (think: “receive one, pay for five”).
Want to send an invoice electronically? Same thing: Extra fee, with a minimum monthly fee.
And so on.
I have no idea how much it would cost me to use Suupohjan Osuuspankki in the end, but I’d be terrified to check my transactions. I feel like signing up with them means they’ll start a vacuum cleaner to suck a euro out of my bank account every time I inhale.