HSBC Welsh language service: How easy is it to switch? And who out there speaks our language?
With a Plaid Cymru MP set to close his HSBC account following the bank’s decision to axe its Welsh language customer service line, others are now following suit. But where (and how) should they go?
MP for Arfon, Hywel Williams said: “HSBC has long abandoned its pretence of being the world’s local bank. After closing numerous Welsh branches and disrespecting Welsh speakers for years, it is no wonder that it is losing the confidence of many customers.”
He added: “HSBC has been running their Welsh medium telephone service down for years. A customer for 51 years, I always choose to speak in Welsh but recently have nearly always been passed on to an English-speaking call handler.
“That banks can get away with scrapping services in one of the two official languages of our country shows how legislation is not sufficiently robust. We should consider amending the 1993 Welsh Language Act and the 2011 Welsh Language (Wales) Measure to cover essential services provided privately, such as banking.”
Following his decision, rising numbers are voicing their intention to do the same, with many also looking into the ethics and provisions of other financial institutions to ensure they are not moving their money to a bank that either has worse provisions or questionable ethics. A minefield.
X user, Ani_byn, asked Barclays about their Welsh language policy earlier this week, posting the following:
I’m thinking of leaving HSBC because they no longer have a welsh language service.there are countless people,societies and businesses of the same ilk .I’m thinking of starting a campagne to encourage people to do the same. Can your bank accommodate?
— ani byn (@Ani_byn) November 29, 2023
Barclays Bank is one of the few remaining financial institutions (with an all-important current account) that has a Welsh language telephone line.
They say: “We have a dedicated Welsh language telephone service available on 0333 202 7450 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. If you call outside these times, you’ll be directed to one of our English centres.
“There may be other times when we’ll need to transfer your call to other centres of expertise where staff may not be able to speak Welsh.”
Where to go…
“Who else provides a Welsh language service?” you might reasonably ask.
In 2015, the Welsh Language Commissioner published a statutory review of the Welsh language services of high street banks in Wales. The report, now almost a decade old, makes for sober reading with evidence of a clear disregard for such simple things as processing a cheque in Welsh.
The Commissioner at the time wrote: “Customers are favouring companies and charities that show respect towards Welsh culture and community, and show an understanding of how to operate in a country where the Welsh language has official status.”
Official status in name only, evidently.
Barclays, HSBC and Natwest are mentioned in the report as having had Welsh language telephone lines at the time, but as we know, HSBC has now bitten the dust.
Thankfully, Natwest are still in the game, and their Welsh language line can be reached on 01248 671222.
More info on Welsh language services can be found here.
Principality Building Society also has a Welsh language telephone service, but that’s little comfort for those who want a current account, as sadly no Welsh building societies currently offer a current account service.
The Current Account Switch Service “makes switching your current account simple, reliable and stress-free.” Customers can even bring their overdraft with them, as long as they check with their bank first (or look at it as a clean slate without one).
Over 10 million current accounts have been switched so far thanks to the Current Account Switch Service, and over 50 banks and building societies are already part of the service.
The Account Switch Service Guarantee means your new bank will switch your payments and transfer your balance, and your old bank will take care of closing your old account.
Daniel Joseph from Newport switched his current account late last year to take advantage of a £250 switching offer.
He said: “I’d put off making the switch as I thought it would be too much hassle, but it was so straightforward and once I’d completed things online, everything fell into place easily and I didn’t even have to worry about my direct debits.”
“I had to change a few things online, namely seller accounts in case anything went to my old account (which a safety net exists for at the beginning).
“I also double checked with my employers just to be sure, but all in all it was the smallest inconvenience but one that I feel really proud of – that my money is in a place that’s at least got better morals than the last place it was kept, and the ‘free’ money didn’t hurt either.”
Words in action
I wrote a piece last year which mentioned why I switched bank accounts, and at the time my priority was being with a building society for that ‘mutual difference’ and to be sure my account provider wasn’t investing in anything that doesn’t align with my ethics and doesn’t exist solely for making foreign shareholders richer at the expense of service in our communities.
But I do regret that I hadn’t looked deeper into Welsh language provision at the time. It is of national importance that we in Wales are able to conduct our daily lives in our native language.
We also recently shared how Welsh Liberal Democrats leader Jane Dodds raised concerns about Labour’s Banc Cambria manifesto pledge which the Welsh Government still say they are working on, despite evidence to the contrary.
With HSBC making obscene amounts of money, in the billions each year, thanks to its ‘valued’ account-holders – a phone line for its Welsh speaking customers, many of whom can’t use online banking or live too far from their nearest branch, is really not asking for much.
It’s time we all started putting our money where our mouths (and our hearts) are and hit these institutions in the only place that matters to them – their pockets.
Compare current account providers via USwitch here.
Find out more about how to switch your current account here.
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