Every time I write stories about Brazil’s elevation to becoming a world player I am painfully aware of the other Brazil, the backward, bureaucratic, unchanging nation that remains stuck in the last century.

Today was one of those days and it involves HSBC, one of the world’s most modern and interconnected banks.

HSBC has been badgering me to open an account with them. So I took over the documents they require; my passport, my tax number, and some bills confirming my home address.

Photo by Steve Rhode

I was finally told today that the head office can’t authorise a new account without confirmation of my parents’ names.

The one Brazilian document containing that information is currently with the Federal Police and it will take them up to six months to give me a new one.

That information was apparently too complex for anyone at HSBC to understand. So after asking me to open an account with them, and pre-approving me, they apologised and said come back when you can prove your (late) mother is Isobel and your father is Fred.

HSBC can learn exactly nothing from having my parents’ names. (Which I gladly gave them, they just don’t trust me not to lie about it.)

No one in the UK or the US has to provide their parents’ names to open an account. So why in Brazil? Isn’t HSBC supposed to be the world’s bank, creating opportunities across the globe? (See ironic pic above.)

There are few clearer examples of the conflict between the new, forward-looking Brazil that has risen to become the world’s sixth biggest economy and a major international player, and the stunted, self-defeating nation of unthinking apparatchiks.

Sometimes I marvel at how far Brazil has come. But just as often I despair at how far it has to go.