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Bank accused of hanging communities ‘out to dry’ after axing Welsh language phone service

12 Nov 2023 4 minute read
HSBC bank. Lucy North/PA Wire

HSBC has been accused of hanging communities “out to dry” following confirmation of the axing of the bank’s Welsh language phone service last week.

Plaid Cymru MS Llyr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, is calling on the banking giant to reverse its decision, which he says “adds insult to injury” to his constituents.

Politicians were informed of the bank’s decision to axe its Welsh language service by letter on Wednesday (8 November).

This announcement follows the closure of HSBC high street branches in Denbigh, Holyhead, Llanrwst, Colwyn Bay, Holywell, Menai Bridge, Amlwch, Beaumaris, Barmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Tywyn, Betws-y-Coed, Llanberis, Abergele, Cerrigydrudion, Harlech, Caergwrle, Flint, Ewloe, Chirk, and Ruabon in recent years.

Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “HSBC’s decision to axe their Welsh language telephone service is an enormous blow and a huge disappointment to residents in North Wales.

“It is yet another example of the bank hanging our communities in Wales out to dry and adds insult to injury to constituents who have already seen their high street branches close.

“The list of HSBC branches closed in North Wales in recent years is a long one”.

“Following the company’s decision to close down a number of its branches in North Wales, the telephone service, for many of their customers, is a more vital resource than ever. It should reverse this harmful decision without delay.

“It should be remembered that many customers use HSBC because of its Welsh language phone service, and it is without question true to say that the bank has not done enough to promote it.

“This is a big blow to their customers in Wales especially their older customers, and those who don’t have access to digital technology. The bank’s pledge to ‘arrange a call back in Welsh, within 3 working days’ is astonishingly disrespectful to Welsh speakers. It is also insensitive to the financial pressures some people will face.

“For a significant number of people, accessing their bank through Welsh is not a ‘choice’. HSBC say they ‘have confirmed that all customers can bank in English.’ This is not true. HSBC now needs to reverse this decision and move towards promoting Welsh-medium services.”

Call back

In the letter confirming the closure of the service, the Managing Director of Wealth and Personal Banking at HSBC UK, Oliemata O’Donoghue said: “We recognise that for some customers, banking in Welsh is still their preference, so we can arrange a call-back in Welsh, within three working days, to help with any questions they may have.

“Whilst we understand it is not their first choice, we have confirmed that all customers are able to bank in English. We appreciate change can be difficult, and therefore we have created an outreach programme to support specific customers who hold vulnerabilities or call frequently.”

“This will involve a personalised call to advise them of this change, how they can continue to contact us, including alternative ways to bank with us, and addressing any specific concerns they may have.

Ms O’Donoghue added that HSBC provides Welsh speaking colleagues in half of its Welsh branches with some of branches in Wales offering a full translation service.

In a statement the Welsh Language Commissioner, Efa Gruffudd Jones appeared to suggest the bank hadn’t done enough to recruit Welsh language speakers despite them being given guidance on how to do so.

She said: “In our discussions with HSBC we have been offering advice on how to recruit Welsh speakers and encouraging them to better promote the Welsh language line but there is no evidence that this has happened which again is disappointing.”

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Richard E
Richard E
5 months ago

With its roots as ‘ The North and South Wales Bank “ prior to becoming the “ Midland “ this sad move goes against the grain, Gwilym Owen of Oswestry led its bilingual push for many years – seeking to pressure other banks to follow. Sponsored bilingual events and Eisteddfodau plus welsh adverts followed on from welsh cheque and paying in books . And old Tory he he even saw that bilingual signs etc were found in Caer, Croesoswallt and Amwythig in his Wales and the Border Directorate. HSBC seem to have lost their way in the global one size… Read more »

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
5 months ago

There should be a method by which the Welsh government can legally require a company to provide Welsh language services if said company wants to do business in Wales.

Failing that, no-one in Wales should bank with hsbc!

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
5 months ago

Don’t like it then move your account.

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