More strange tales from HSBC

HSBC executives may well be slapping themselves on the back for a job well done following the bank’s recent announcement of a 32 per cent increase in third quarter pre-tax profits to US$6.1 billion. Meanwhile the bank’s long-suffering retail banking customers have less to cheer about.

Readers may recall a recent article on this website which recounted the almost surreal experience of a customer who unsuccessfully attempted to open a joint account at HSBC. Following on from that another irritated customer has contacted about her efforts to take out a personal loan with HSBC – the bread and butter of retail banking, or so you would have thought.

The customer who we shall call Stella recently decided she wanted a personal loan. She was specifically looking for a low interest tax loan that many of the banks offer at this time of year. Since most of her banking is with HSBC she enquired in several branches and asked her relationship manager when this promotion was likely to start. No one apparently could help and so she applied online for a personal loan. About an hour after this HSBC announced on its website that it was offering tax loans.

Stella contacted HSBC’s personal loans department and said she wanted to switch her loan to the lower interest tax loan. It was impossible to do this, she was told by several people at HSBC, without incurring a penalty. She then phoned HSBC and enquired about taking out a tax loan. After being told the terms she said, “I have a problem in that I have just taken out a personal loan at a higher interest rate. What can I do about it?” To her surprise, the woman from HSBC told her there was no problem and that she could cancel her personal loan because there was no penalty within the first 30 days. She could then apply for a tax loan. The only difficulty was that she would have to go to a branch to do this.

So earlier this week Stella went to a branch near Central and explained her situation. The women she spoke to said it would be impossible to cancel the loan without paying a penalty. Stella insisted she could. The woman rang the loans department and was told she could not. Stella rang the loans department and pointed out she was told she could. The personal loans department insisted she couldn’t. The woman at the branch said all that Stella could do was to write a letter to the complaints department detailing what had happened. She did this but before leaving the branch asked to look at the form the bank would use to cancel a loan. The woman said she had never used the form and it took her about ten minutes to find it on the bank’s system. To her astonishment Stella read on the front page of the form, “30-day Service Pledge: If you need to fully prepay the Personal Installment Loan with our bank within 30 days from the date of drawdown, we will waive the early redemption fee of 2% of initial approved loan amount.”

With a sense of elation after about an hour of frustration at the branch, Stella pointed this out to the HSBC staff. To her amazement the woman who was attending to her immediately said, “That’s not right, you do have to pay the penalty.” She summoned two more colleagues who confirmed that this was indeed the case and said the 30 day service pledge did not apply to her. Despite the protestations of HSBC’s staff, Stella filled out the form and when it came to the section which asked why she was cancelling, ticked not happy with the banks service and the rate of interest is too high. At this point, Stella says a male member of the bank’s staff grabbed the pen out of her hand and crossed out these reasons and wrote “others” and alongside it “cancellation.” He told her she had not understood the form correctly. Stella admits she was beginning to feel somewhat hysterical at this point and told the man he was wrong, “The bank wants to know why I am cancelling the loan.” She told him to back off and demanded another form which she filled out then left the branch.

The next day she received an email from HSBC inviting her to participate in a “customer satisfaction” survey. Her only thought was, “You have to be kidding.” The same day she received a call from a woman from HSBC’s personal loans department who had been one of the first to tell her she could not cancel the loan without a penalty. She had rung to ‘confirm’ that Stella couldn’t cancel the loan without paying a penalty. Stella pointed that she could and she had done so. “But that’s impossible,” the woman said, “you can’t do it.”

So of about eight people at HSBC who Stella spoke to about the loan, only one who was involved in promoting tax loans, seemed to be aware of the bank’s 30 day service pledge. Indeed her overwhelming impression was that a lot of the staff seemed to have an investment in her not cancelling the loan and seemed to relish her apparent entrapment in her loan commitment

When HowardWinnReports asked HSBC if staff were incentivised on the basis of their sales performance a spokesman said in a statement that, “In 2013, HSBC introduced a global incentive scheme for all customer-facing staff in Retail Banking and Wealth Management, including those in Hong Kong. “The new scheme aims to reward our staff on client experience, sales quality and values measures in a globally consistent way by removing all product sales incentives.”

He also said that the bank had launched its 30 day service pledge in May 2012. In a News Release by HSBC when the pledge was launched, Diana Cesar, HSBC’s Hong Kong CEO who was then Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management for Hong Kong said, “A first of its kind service in Hong Kong, our 30-day Service Pledge programme offers our retail customers extra peace of mind when they make their financial decisions, as well as the flexibility to adjust their wealth management plans according to their changing financial situations.” She went on to say, “Our research found that the majority of customers (81%) believe that a service pledge strengthens their confidence in products and 90% of respondents are satisfied with a 30-day guaranteed fee refund or waiver period. Our new programme also reflects our confidence in our financial products.”

This is all well and good, but if the programme is not understood by the bank’s staff then, ‘that extra peace of mind’ evaporates the moment they step into one of the bank’s branches and have to battle with staff to implement the bank’s stated procedures. HSBC says it is investigating the incident.

3 thoughts on “More strange tales from HSBC

  1. Rick Adkinson

    You have to love hsbc, how does such a large corporate monster deliver any level of customer service, well it doesn’t.

    I recently ‘’agreed’’ an overdraft facility, well the ability to overdraw in an emergency using my foreign currency as collateral, i.e. I borrow an amount of money from myself and they get to charge me interest for the privilege. The young inexperienced chap said I would have to watch a 3-4 minute video, I said I fully understand the risks of my proposal and I could lose my house, my trousers and my sanity but there was more chance of me watching an American baseball match than me watching any video, he was most perplexed and said we could not then proceed. He eventually decided against pursuing this ludicrous line of ‘’customer protection’’ and asked if when I received a call the next day would I confirm I had watched the video, yes I said, a month later I still await the said call.

  2. Mark Hooper

    Once again, nothing HSBC does surprises me. I had my own encounter with them this week, engaging my relationship manager to resolve an issue that led to a 30 minute conversation with someone else on an unrelated matter of absolutely no consequence. They were just wasting my time (no details here because, well, I don’t want to waste my time)…but, and this is what I would like to know: I hate HSBC as a retail banker. They are simply peopled with nincompoops who have no idea of what they are doing or why. And, I presume that all the other banks are just as pathetic, which is why I don’t shudder my HSBC account and go elsewhere. I would love to get input from people as to what bank THEY DO LIKE. Thanks for these stories….I feel for the people, but recognize that it’s not just me! Oh….I am an American and previously lived in Seattle…and in 25 years I made ONE in-person visit to my bank. Since I moved back to Hong Kong 13 months ago, I have visited my bank six times in-person to wrestle over stupid, inane matters that I couldn’t resolve any other way. I can only hope these HSBC people can apply some of that $6 B to A) training for their chimpanzees and B) some automation that actually works for adults so we NEVER need to visit the branch. Thanks for letting me vent. HSBC makes my blood boil…..and in that regard, they are virtually in a world of their own.

  3. Andrew

    After years of frustration of dealing with HSBC, for my new business we opened accounts with Bank of East Asia. I’ve since opened other business and now personal accounts, credit cards etc with them and in my experience they are very good. As a small example I had a problem with a card 2 weeks ago so I went to the branch … I spoke to a person and they sorted out the problem and then took me to the ATM to show me what to do. I went back to the branch 2 days ago and saw the same guy and he remembered my name. Sounds like fiction I know but its true!

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