Saturday, 30 November 2013

HSBC: Headache Sends Blogger Crazy

There won't be any blog entry tomorrow, I'm closing my computer and taking Sunday off.

I have a dull throbbing HSBC headache this evening.

I mean who really wants to spend their days blogging about HSBC's lousy decision to close an account.

How mundane, how prosaic, how monochrome, how two dimensional.

I can think of so many things I'd rather be blogging about.

HSBC can close your account without telling you

Brett King faced a closed door at HSBC.

Brett King and HSBC

Woah, Twitter has just informed me that Brett King is now following my blogging rant about HSBC's decision to close my account.

Little old me.

HSBC closes diplomatic accounts

A friend writes:

Really sorry to hear this. You are in good company though.....just read that HSBC closed 40 London based diplomatic missions including the apostolic nunciature to Great Britain  (papal embassy who had had an account with them for years, like yourself) and  Benin and PNG embassies.  Also came out of the blue. Apparently a spokesman for the bank said "it had been applying a rolling programme of strategic assessments to all its businesses since May 2011 ... We do not comment on individual customer relationships".

Justice HSBC style

Some of my friends are saying "Cut your losses, get out of HSBC and open an account elsewhere. It's a waste of time and energy to try and take them on."

No. If I can't get justice from HSBC, I'll use the internet to expose the injustice.

2000 views in 2 days. Not bad for a beginner, but the next step is to find out how to increase blog visibility...

Friday, 29 November 2013

Friends concerned about their own HSBC accounts

  • This must be very distressing and weird! That's my bank... wonder what they will do to me. At the very least they owe an explanation.
  • I am really sorry to hear about this. I too am with HSBC and now very worried and outraged on your behalf. I can only imagine the hassle, stress and frustration this has caused you. We are all behind you.

Facebook comments about HSBC's decision

  • How infuriating!
  • This is really Kafkaesque.
  • WHAT???  Welcome to the police state! I've never heard of this practice. It's appalling. I hope your MP will help you.
  • That sounds crazy! Thanks for speaking out.
  • Sorry to read this. That's so incredible!….
  • I was horrified to read of the way HSBC has treated you... I have never heard of such a thing before, especially as you have not had any trouble with your bank account either now or in the past. It is monstrous.
  • How utterly bizarre. It's not some kind of scam is it?
  • What HSBC has done sounds outrageous and infuriating.
  • Outrageous!
  • That's absolutely ridiculous. I can't believe they are allowed to do that and get away with it!

Posting, sharing, tweeting about HSBC

  • I tweeted the link for your blog to the HSBC press office - others should do so too.
  • My friend was due to return to Africa to continue working with a development project... Until HSBC decided to close his bank account without giving any reason or the possibility of appeal. Now he's writing a blog to document the experience and warn others of the powers that banks can have over us.
  • Can't believe how banks can just close an account without explanation! Please read the experience of my friend and share.

HSBC: How Soon Before Closure?

If you bank with HSBC, just remember what the initials stand for.

For me, it's 20th January 2014, which is 53 days from now. What about you?

Reply from the HSBC customer couldn't-care-less team

An extract from the letter I received today:

"The Bank does not have to provide a reason for the closure of the accounts, although some of the reasons may include account conduct, change in bank policy, security, anti-terrorism legislation, anti money laundering legislation, fraud prevention or the risk profile of the banking connection. I am sorry I am unable to elaborate on the reason for the decision being made but can confirm the decision will not be overturned."

Remember, if you bank with HSBC, this may happen to you at any time.

Supreme irony: HSBC wins hands down

Now I've done the rounds of the High Street banks, I still maintain that HSBC is the best bank to suit my needs. Even after all that's happened this week, crazy as it may sound, I still want to bank with them.

But they won't let me.

And they won't tell me why.

And they won't tell me why they won't tell me why.

Notes from an HSBC orphan, part 3

I visited five high street banks today to find a home and NatWest was refreshingly different.

The staff member was suitably shocked that HSBC would close my account without explanation and assured me that NatWest does not do this to its customers. And he saw no difficulty with the fact that I'm an expat.

Notes from an HSBC orphan, part 2

Which bank will take in an HSBC orphan? 

Lloyds, Halifax and the Co-op all came out with more or less the same response: "We do not open accounts for ex-pats. You have to be resident in the UK for six months of the year."

So they're out of the picture.

Notes from an HSBC orphan, part 1

Today I've been knocking on doors to find a friendly, welcoming bank who will take in an HSBC orphan.

BARCLAYS comes out bottom of the pile.

Q: "Do you ever close a client's account without explanation?"
A: "Yes, this is possible, for example if we suspect a client of fraud or money laundering. Of course, I'm not suggesting that that applies to you, Sir, but it is in our terms and conditions".

That phrase again! If I hear 'terms and conditions' one more time this week I'm going to tear my hair out.

Sorry, Barclays, I won't be banking with you.

Happy birthday, HSBC blog

You've been alive for 24 hours.

In your short life, you've had over 1300 views from 10 countries on 4 continents.

I like this way of communicating my dismay about HSBC's decision to close my accounts without explanation.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Interpreting HSBC's silence

When you are faced with what amounts to silence from all the HSBC staff you talk to, your only option is to imagine explanations. Why has HSBC decided to close my account?

Because I travel frequently to Africa?

Because my account goes relatively quiet whenever I'm abroad, then wakes up again when I'm back in the UK?

Because I have bank accounts in France and Togo?

Because most of my income is in the form of donations given through a UK registered charity?

Because I've been paying in a lot of cash from car boot sale fund-raising events recently?

Because I used my debit card at an Arab restaurant in Jerusalem last week?

Who knows? No idea at all. Your guess is as good as mine.

Beware of HSBC financial reviews

By the way, all this started when I went to the bank to make an international transfer. When we were done, the staff member took the opportunity to do a thorough review of my finances.

This is great, I thought at the time, just the kind of personalised customer support that is so often lacking these days. And from a friendly, experienced professional who seemed genuinely interested in serving me. As I walked out of the bank that day, I mentally gave HSBC 10 out of 10.

Little did I know how dangerous such interactions can be. Only a month later, HSBC decide to close my accounts.

Was it a direct result of the review? How do I know? They won't tell me anything.

At HSBC, suspected = guilty

There's also the feeling that HSBC, my good old trusty bank, is suddenly treating me like a criminal.

But it's not even a question of "guilty until proven innocent", because there is no opportunity for me to clear my name. Sure, I've sent a letter of complaint to customer services, but the staff at the local branch have informed me that it could take a month to get a reply, and that I shouldn't be surprised if the reply does not give any reasons for the decision to close my account.

It's rather a case of "Guilty because we suspect you of something, but by the way we're not going to tell you what. Your account is going to be closed, and you will never know what we think you did wrong."

My feelings about HSBC right now

This week I've learned that being faced with the possibility of losing your HSBC bank account is stressful. Blogging is my way of monitoring my own emotional response to this crazy news.

The first feeling when you get the letter is disbelief: "This has to be a hoax".

That's closely followed by denial: "This can't happen to me, it must have been sent to the wrong person."

Then it dawns on you that it's real, and it's not about to go away. At this point, you reach a point of reluctant resignation: accepting the reality of it.

This is followed by total exasperation, as you realise that no-one at HSBC is going to give you any answers.

Then you fight feelings of rejection. "But hang on HSBC, I thought we were friends?"

And anger looms large too, at the sheer injustice of it: "How dare HSBC make the decision to close my account without giving any reasons or opportunity for consultation."

Above all, the overwhelming sense of powerlessness: "I'm just one ordinary bloke taking on some vast anonymous international empire."

Yet blogging is empowering: I'm taking control with my keyboard, making my voice heard and reaching a public that urgently needs to be more aware of this issue.

The West Briton is on to it

Good news. The West Briton has just phoned me. They're very interested in my story and are sending their photographer around tomorrow.

A picky post about HSBC wordsmiths

The opening sentence of the letter I received from HSBC says :

"We are writing to advise you that following a review of your accounts, we came to the decision that all of the accounts you hold with us needed to be closed."

When I saw the two grammatical errors in this sentence, my first reaction was that the letter was a hoax.

I don't have much ammunition to hand, but I can wield my English teacher credentials. So come on HSBC, get it right:

Use the present perfect of 'come' to indicate a past action that has a consequence in the present: we have come to the decision.

Use the present simple of 'need' to indicate a scheduled event in the near future: the accounts need to be closed.

My French students last summer could have done that with their eyes shut.

There, got that one off my chest.

Goodbye cosy HSBC informality

These days, HSBC staff are trained to be on friendly first name terms with their customers. 

But over the past few days, as I've tried to get to the bottom of why my account is going to be closed, the staff at my local branch have reverted to addressing me more formally as Mr. Roberts.

Quite right too. Cosy first-name terms don't suit conversations of this kind.

What has happened to me at HSBC could happen to you

On 20 December, I have a meeting with Sarah Newton MP, to discuss HSBC's unilateral decision to close my account. Full report to follow.

Thanks Margie, for contacting your MP about this too.

Why not follow Margie's lead? If you think it is unjust for banks to close customer accounts without giving a reason, please write to your MP, modeling your letter on the following text:

"A friend has just received a letter from his bank staying that they intend to close all his accounts. They give no explanation for why they consider this action to be necessary. Neither do they offer the option of keeping the accounts open, or appealing the decision. I am writing to protest against the injustice of this policy which is widespread practice in all the major banks."

Remember, what has happened to me could happen to you any time.

Any journalists want to interview me about HSBC?

Yesterday evening I wrote to the BBC, the Times, The Guardian, the Observer, the West Briton and the Western Morning News about HSBC's unilateral decision to close my account. I am available for interview if any journalists want to pick this up.

I realise that the very existence of this blog is giving HSBC's lawyers a cast-iron case for closing my account.

But since I can't engage in anything resembling a true dialogue with HSBC, I have to express myself somewhere, and the world-wide web will just have to do.

OK, I don't do a typical job, granted

I work in the charity sector as a development worker in a small village in Africa. I spend my life shuttling back and forth between the UK and Africa. HSBC has been helping me do that for the last twenty years.

I was due to return to Africa in January. I was on the brink of getting my vaccinations up to date and booking flight tickets.

But my departure is on hold now, because of HSBC's decision to close my account. I can't return to Africa without keeping a UK bank account open to channel my funds.

I thought HSBC might recognise the importance of overseas development.
I thought HSBC might value my extensive professional experience in the charity sector.
I thought HSBC might be concerned with corporate social responsibility.

Evidently not. My account is going to close on 20 January 2014. Period.

And while we're on the subject of injustice...

It's unjust for HSBC to take the unilateral decision to close my account.

It's also unjust for HSBC head office to expect their well-trained pleasant staff in the Truro branch to have to defend the indefensible. If I was an HSBC employee I'd be up in arms about it. I've been in there every day this week giving them hassle, and all they do is respond with the utmost courtesy and professionalism. Grrrrr !!

Whene'er I spoke sarcastic joke
Replete with malice spiteful
These people mild politely smiled
And voted me delightful.

You have to hand it to them, after all it's the world's local bank.

BBC: Bank account closures 'unjust'

Bank account closures unjust

My money laundering HSBC account

The local branch of HSBC tell me that sometimes accounts are closed when the account holder is suspected of money laundering.

Money laundering??!

I'm not even sure I know what money laundering is.

Must have something to do with paying for your laundry I guess.

No, HSBC, please believe me. I'm just an average guy who needs a bank account. Last week -
- I paid some cash in using one of those conveyor belt things.
- I used an ATM abroad to get local currency because the hotel didn't take visa.
- I made a monthly mortgage payment as usual.
- I bought a book on my Kindle.

That's the kind of humdrum stuff I do with my money laundering HSBC account.

Facing a closed door at HSBC - what about the others?

Since HSBC won't give me a reason for their decision to close my account, how do I go about choosing another bank? On what criteria do I base my choice?

Which other bank will take me on if I've had an account refused elsewhere?

If I find another bank, how do I know that they won't also take the unilateral decision to close it further down the road?

In any case, why should I leave HSBC? Everything was going so smoothly until now.

All these questions remain unanswered because of HSBC's refusal to give me any information.

It seems I'm not alone...

How HSBC rewards customer loyalty

I have been banking with HSBC and its predecessor Midland Bank for 35 years, which is all my adult life. It's deeply shocking to realise that my loyalty counts for nothing.

Most services we use - car insurance, phone companies - never earn this kind of loyalty. We switch easily from one to another when we find a better package. But a bank account is different: we're all heavily reliant on our relationships with our banks. They have a pervasive influence on every aspect of our lives.

Ever since I was 18, HSBC has been there for me, helping me get on with my life, helping me to do the things I need to do, helping me shove my money around so that it's where it needs to be. It gets on with its work so that I can get on with mine.

Over the years, I've come to expect excellent service from HSBC. And I expected that service to be lifelong. I expected HSBC to walk the length of the road with me.

And suddenly I'm faced with a closed door and no explanation. 

Still in shock about HSBC's decision to close my account

I am bewildered and angry. On 21 November, I received a shocking letter from HSBC, my bank. The letter states that they intend to close all of the accounts I hold with them. They give not the slightest explanation for why they consider this action to be necessary. Neither do they give me the option of keeping the accounts open, or even politely inviting me to appeal the decision. Yet my accounts are in a healthy state.

The staff at my local branch, who appear to be well trained in every other respect, are unable to give me any explanations. They invited me to phone the HSBC head office, but neither the staff member I spoke to nor her supervisor was able to give me satisfaction. The only advice I received was to write to the complaints section, but with the ominous warning that "they may take up to a month to reply, and my not be willing to tell you the reason either".

HSBC have decided to close my account

This blog is a diary of events since HSBC announced that they intend to close my account. As my finger hovers over the 'publish' button, I'm aware that speaking out may make HSBC even more determined to be rid of me. But that concern is over-ridden by my need to express my own sense of powerlessness and draw attention to the sheer injustice of a policy that allows banks to close accounts without giving a reason.

Are you with HSBC? Has something similar happened to you? Please share, add comments, tell me your story.