Following research last week suggesting that HSBC has a major capital shortfall, the fact that several farmer’s co-ops were unable to pay back depositors in China, and, of course, the liquidity crisis in China itself, news from the BBC that HSBC is imposing restrictions on large cash withdrawals raising a number of red flags.
The BBC reports that some HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it.
HSBC admitted it has not informed customers of the change in policy, which was implemented in November for their own good: “We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual… the reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimise the opportunity for financial crime.”
As one customer responded: “you shouldn’t have to explain to your bank why you want that money. It’s not theirs, it’s yours.”
Some HSBC customers have been prevented from withdrawing large amounts of cash because they could not provide evidence of why they wanted it, the BBC has learnt.
Listeners have told Radio 4’s Money Box they were stopped from withdrawing amounts ranging from £5,000 to £10,000.
HSBC admitted it has not informed customers of the change in policy, which was implemented in November.
The bank says it has now changed its guidance to staff.
“When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for. They wanted a letter from the person involved.”
Mr Cotton says the staff refused to tell him how much he could have: “So I wrote out a few slips. I said, ‘Can I have £5,000?’ They said no. I said, ‘Can I have £4,000?’ They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, ‘OK, we’ll give you that.’ “
He asked if he could return later that day to withdraw another £3,000, but he was told he could not do the same thing twice in one day.
Mr Cotton cannot understand HSBC’s attitude: “I’ve been banking in that bank for 28 years. They all know me in there. You shouldn’t have to explain to your bank why you want that money. It’s not theirs, it’s yours.”
HSBC has said that following customer feedback, it was changing its policy: “We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for.”
“The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimise the opportunity for financial crime. However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologise to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced.”
But Eric Leenders, head of retail at the British Bankers Association, said banks were sensible to ask questions of their customers: “I can understand it’s frustrating for customers. But if you are making the occasional large cash withdrawal, the bank wants to make sure it’s the right way to make the payment.”
The arrogance is incredible…
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