Up to 1m businesses are stuck without a bank manager at HSBC – forcing them to deal with anonymous call centre staff who can block their accounts.
The bank was attacked this week for freezing the accounts of hundreds of entrepreneurs in a botched crackdown on crime.
Innocent business owners were quizzed by staff in call centres who they had never spoken to before and who are expected to handle more than 1,800 appointments a year each.
Those who failed to satisfy HSBC’s demands were punished with a freeze, leaving them unable to pay suppliers, launch new products or pay staff.
HSBC has left up to a million small firms without a bank manager leaving them to deal with anonymous call centre staff
Many victims of the tactics told the Mail that their problems were made worse by lack of a bank manager who knew their business well.
Linda Turner, 61, runs an interior design business in Cambridgeshire and was told her account would be shut down because she had failed to fill in a questionnaire promptly enough.
She said: ‘They’ve not had an in-house business person for a while, so you’re reliant on the cashier ladies at the desk.
‘When I asked them what the problem was, they said nobody in the branch could tell me anything.’
Turner only managed to reverse the decision after asking her MP for help. In the last three years, HSBC has axed 168 branches as more customers move online.
It has also scrapped 1,719 of the commercial staff who look after businesses across Europe. It claims UK numbers have been static at 5,000 for several years.
Mike Cherry, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘When times are tough, there’s no replacement for help from a known and trusted bank branch contact.’
The account-freezing scandal was triggered by HSBC’s efforts to clean up its act after a £1.2billion fine in 2012 for laundering money for Mexican drug gangs.
US authorities installed an independent monitor to examine its crime-stopping procedures.
Terrified of losing its US banking licence HSBC has introduced stringent checks on companies – including the entirely blameless ones whose accounts were wrongly blocked.
Many checks are run from a call centre in Nottingham, where staff on salaries of around £20,000 are expected to conduct 30-minute calls with seven firms a day, according to a job advert.
This equates to more than 1,800 surveys a year. HSBC insiders said that number would include some companies contacted more than once.
The advert said staff would find ‘most customers are small businesses where there is no dedicated relationship manager service, with around 1m customers’.
HSBC claimed its own advert was incorrect, saying that the 1m figure also included medium and large firms which would have a bank manager.
A spokesman said: ‘Our business specialists and relationship managers work with our small business customers, supported by the Know-Your-Customer team.
‘We train re-mediation officers to help customers through the review process by phone and the information they gather is then checked thoroughly before the review is completed.
‘At particularly busy times we may from time-to-time supplement our team with short-term staff.’
Courtesy: Daily Mail Online