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Decision to scrap Welsh language phone line is ‘final’ – HSBC

28 Nov 2023 5 minute read
HSBC bank. Lucy North/PA Wire – Inset: Rhun ap Iorwerth.

Emily Price

HSBC is refusing to backtrack on plans to axe its Welsh language phone line saying the decision announced earlier this month is “final”.

The bank notified Rhun ap Iorwerth of its decision in a letter after the leader of Plaid Cymru urged them to reconsider its move.

Earlier this month, HSBC announced it will no longer be offering a Welsh speaking customer service phone line based on a claim that there had been a drop in users.

From January 15th 2024, only English-speaking agents will be available to answer any customers banking with HSBC.

Urgent calls were made by several Senedd Members who wrote to the bank calling for bosses to reconsider their decision to scrap the service which has been described as a “lifeline” for Welsh speakers.

Final

Mr ap Iorwerth said after he wrote to the bank expressing his concerns, he received a response which began with: “‘Whilst I understand this decision is difficult, it is final”.

The Plaid Cymru leader is now urging HSBC and other banks to look to expand Welsh language provision particularly as more branches close and “turn their backs” on Welsh communities.

Mr ap Iorwerth said: “This decision is extremely concerning, and I am particularly disappointed by the bank’s reluctance to re-consider the decision to date.

“I myself have been a customer of HSBC for years and have used the Welsh telephone line significantly – although my recent experience has seen increasingly more calls being directed to the English line.

“They say the number of users has fallen, but advertising the line is very rare in my experience, and therefore hardly surprising, and by no means a sufficient reason to make the decision.

“As HSBC, like the other big banks, have turned their back on our Welsh communities across Anglesey and Wales in recent years, being able to bank by telephone in Welsh is vital for many – particularly vulnerable customers – in the absence of being able to discuss financial issues face to face. To lose that is a devastating blow.

“Our banks should be moving towards expanding Welsh-language banking services – including an online option, not taking further services away from their customers who wish to bank in their preferred language.”

The bank has claimed that after an in depth review it found the Welsh speaking line was “no longer being fully utilised” with only 22 calls each day – compared to 18,000 calls to its English-speaking lines.

“Ignored”

Mr ap Iorwerth added: “The explanation I have received so far is neither sufficient nor reassuring that customers will be able to continue banking freely in the medium of Welsh.

“While there has been a lot of movement into online banking in recent years, our needs as customers and communities in Wales have remained consistent.

“But it’s clear that HSBC no longer understands or is sympathetic to those needs, and that reflects very poorly on them. I implore them to look again at the decision.”

Dr Gareth Hughes, a customer of HSBC from Anglesey, said he felt the bank has ignored the Welsh language for some years.

He said: “As a customer of HSBC (and previously Midland Bank) for over 50 years and a user of the Welsh language phone line, I find this announcement a matter of considerable disappointment, especially given the bank’s past history of supporting and promoting the Welsh language.

“I feel that they have ignored the Welsh language service for some years and certainly over the last two years as my calls to the service have gone straight to monolingual English speakers on every occasion, and very often those staff say they know nothing about Welsh language provision.

“Is it therefore surprising that the figures put forward by HSBC show small numbers of Welsh enquirers? I think the numbers are far lower than the actual demand for the service.

“To add insult to injury, we were informed of the decision through the medium of English only. We have had to endure the disappearance of the branches of the Bank from rural Wales and now we are witnessing the demise of any attempt to use and respect the Welsh language!”

In a letter sent to MSs, 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 3 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.


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hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago

Typical globalist banking outfit. Will only provide service in “major” languages which will facilitate the elimination of minority languages…. unless of course there is a huge shift of customers to other service providers and that needs to include people who use English services but are sympathetic to the needs of Welsh speakers. Looks like I will be banking elsewhere. Which bank demonstrates a positive attitude towards Y Cymry ?

Sarah Good
Sarah Good
2 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

We had our mortgage with Principality. They seemed pretty good. Building Society rather than bank, but I’ll bet they do Banking too

Kieran Boulton
Kieran Boulton
2 months ago
Reply to  Sarah Good

Unfortunately they don’t, only savings accounts.

Maglocunos
Maglocunos
2 months ago

It’s not just HSBC though is it?

We are experiencing a wave of creeping de-bilingualisation in many parts of the world of commerce in Wales. Take Morrisons as an example; their recent shopfits have replaced in-store Welsh language signage with English only and Cymraeg has disappeared from their 40p paper carrier bags.

This is simply not good enough, rhaid i’r Comisiynydd Iaith a Llywodraeth Cymru weithredu ar frys, ac mae’n rhaid i ninnau gymryd ein busnes oddi wrth y cwmniau hyn sydd yn dilorni’r iaith yn beunyddiol.

.

Alwyn
Alwyn
2 months ago
Reply to  Maglocunos

No, actually. The other way around. Creeping bingulaism as more and more have English/ Spanish taking over as a preferred language

Richard Thomas
Richard Thomas
2 months ago

HSBC “Ddim yma o hyd”

G Williams
G Williams
2 months ago

HSBC’s declared aim on its website (hsbc.co.uk/help/hsbc-in-wales/cymru) states that its commitment ‘to the life, culture, and people of Wales is to embrace the Welsh language throughout all its branches in Wales, and, by doing so, to provide the highest quality of service to our customers.; This, of course, is nothing more than cynical and dishonest corporate-speak whose utter hollowness is displayed by its deplorable decision to end its Welsh language customer support line from 15 January 2024.     My experience last week leads me to question whether the bank’s Welsh helpline has, in fact, already been terminated. On 20 November I… Read more »

Colin L
Colin L
2 months ago
Reply to  G Williams

Difficulty in getting through to the Welsh helpline can’t explain why only 4 out of every possible1000 enquiries by Welsh speakers were answered in Welsh. For what ever reason, the majority of Welsh speakers are choosing the English service. If just half of all Welsh speakers (that is 500 in every possible1,000 enquiries) tried the Welsh line and only 2 got through, that would be a failure rate of 99.6%. HSBC could be asked what proportion of Welsh enquiries are diverted.

Anon
Anon
2 months ago

The bank does not have enough Welsh speakers is point one. Point two is there is no incentive for staff to do it. The pay is the same and bonus when not working that line so staff end up with extra workload for no rewards. This is why they closed the line. At same time HSBC has no legal requirements to provide it with the way the business is set up.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago

Step 1 – Closing branches in rural Wales in a case of managed decline.
Step 2 – Charging small community groups a premium to have a bank account.
Step 3 – Closing the Welsh language service, after about a year of making it almost impossible to access, then saying the numbers were down.
Step 4 – No reason to stay with HSBC now so time to leave.

Alwyn
Alwyn
2 months ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

Not just in rural areas. HSBC has only ONE branch in the whole of Cardiff -Albany Road. Its MAIN ( so called) branch in Queen Street has been closed for 2months for ‘upgrading’ i.e. replacement of people by complex machines that even the so-called customer assistants can’t work or explain properly. Queues follow, at the badly marked ‘service points’. Nowhere to sit. BAD

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
2 months ago

There is the Principality Building Society.
They could offer a series of Current bank accounts: It is possible as Nationwide Building Society do just that.

The welsh government should start a National Bank of Wales.
All other nations of the world have a national bank, including those in the Eurozone.
We really need a financial centre here in Wales.

Why is the Welsh Labour government failing the Welsh people by not having one ?
This deserves an answer right now.

Alwyn
Alwyn
2 months ago

There’s been a drop in users because it’n NEVER available. You phone and phone and all you get is a message that says theyll call you back within 24 hours/ 3 days. They don’t. If you’re bothering to phone, you want an answer NOW, not in three says, anyway.

Steve Woods
Steve Woods
2 months ago

“To add insult to injury, we were informed of the decision through the medium of English only.”

From the HSBC code of conduct: “We understand our customers’ needs…and design, market and sell products and services that recognise the long-term interests of customers.”

Some mistake surely.

Karl
Karl
2 months ago

It won’t be long and they won’t have a branch in our country. That seems to have backfired a bit as now they do pop up banks in our library. The greed is strong with this lot.

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

They shouldn’t be allowed in our country then. And that should be Final!!!!!!!

Riki
Riki
2 months ago

Isn’t this against the law for these companies to not provide service in our language in our country? Well, We will now see if the government are for real, or puppets of England.

Frank
Frank
2 months ago

Decision to move Welsh HSBC accounts to a more accommodating bank final – customers.

Rob
Rob
2 months ago

Wales needs its own set of Banks, just like Scotland does (Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale etc)

Jeff
Jeff
2 months ago

Time to switch banks then if you have an account with them.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
2 months ago

If you bank with hsbc and continue to do so then you condone what they are doing!

As others have said, it is time to transfer accounts to a bank or building society that DO provide Gwasanaethau bancio Cymraeg

Ianto
Ianto
2 months ago

I was told by my bank (Barclays) that they are taking on more staff for its Welsh-medium helpline to meet increased demand. Miffed HSBC customers know what to do.

Richard E
Richard E
2 months ago

There are some serious folk in the House of Lords who are Welsh or of Welsh background now based in London and with city links….and Cymry Llundain etc. These people were key 🔑 to moving the setting up of S4C and several I know have “ homes “ ( 2nd or 3rd ) in westen Wales. Rhun needs to reach out to this diaspera to remind them where they came from and raise the mstter at “ board level “ ! Perhaps Rowan Williams or Lord Davies of Aberdaron might be a starting point ? Our celtic cousins are “… Read more »

Last edited 2 months ago by Richard E
Stephen
Stephen
2 months ago
Reply to  Richard E

S4C is funded by the licence fee and viewing figures are continuing to fall. I can’t even watch my beloved Wales national team play football with English commentary, that’s bonkers to me. If the licence fee gets abolished then S4C is likely to fold, unless the Welsh assembly decides to fund it directly which if course they will, meaning they will have to make cuts elsewhere, or force the people in Wales to pay towards it. They will have to force it, as if offered via subscription I doubt enough people will subscribe to cover it’s costs.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen

S4C is the ONLY channel I would be happy to pay for in order to keep it going as a linear broadcaster for everyone in Cymru.

Richard E
Richard E
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen

I think thst i seem to remember Adverts on S4C ? As with Channel 4 .
I use sub titles when i watch my beloved Wales. My cousin has the radio wales commentry on while watching,

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
2 months ago

So much for inclusivity. I suggest those who bank with HSBC close their accounts and seek one that treats our language with respect. #WelshNot 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 #HSBC 🇬🇧 #Cymrophobe

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
2 months ago

Move yor account if you dont like ….. plenty if better banks out there.

Stephen
Stephen
2 months ago

Only about 500k people speak Welsh in Wales. About the same signed the petition wanting to reject the 20mph rollout. Obviously the numbers aren’t enough to make a difference.

Richard E
Richard E
2 months ago
Reply to  Stephen

Wow ! Check your facts mate

Number of Welsh speskers way out ❌

Numbers IN Wales rejecting the safer road actions – way out ❌

Number of Tory Voters at nect election ❓

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