HSBC announces end to Welsh speaking customer service line
HSBC has announced it will no longer be offering a Welsh speaking customer service phone line because of a “steady decline” in its usage.
The bank said 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 call to its English-speaking lines.
From January 15th 2024, only English-speaking agents will be available to answer any customers banking with HSBC.
Alyn and Deeside MS, Jack Sergeant said the announcement highlighted the need to establish a community bank for Wales.
Managing Director of Wealth and Personal Banking at HSBC UK, Oliemata O’Donoghue wrote to Mr Sergeant laying out the reasons why the decision had been taken.
Ms 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.
Responding to the news, Jack Sergeant told Nation.Cymru: “I’m extremely disappointed that HSBC have announced they will no longer be offering a Welsh speaking customer service phone line.
“Cymraeg is a living language and preferred choice for many when accessing banking services.
“This is another example of high street banks letting Welsh citizens down. Once again this highlights the need to establish a Community Bank for Cymru.”
Welsh Language Commissioner, Efa Gruffudd Jones said her office had been in contact with HSBC to offer advice on how to recruit Welsh speakers, but there was “no evidence” that this had happened.
She said: “It is disappointing to hear that HSBC intends to discontinue the Welsh language telephone service and the offer of a call back within three working days in Welsh means that they are offering a sub-standard service to Welsh speakers.
“While presenting evidence to the Senedd committee this week I expressed my frustration with the banking sector in terms of meaningful action and unfortunately this has proven my point.
“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.
“I have already written to HSBC asking to meet urgently to discuss the situation in the hope that they will be prepared to consider other options, rather than closing this important service.”
Welsh Conservative Shadow Welsh Language Minister, Samuel Kurtz MS described the customer service line had been a “lifeline” for Welsh speaking customers.
He said: “The decision by HSBC to no longer provide a Welsh language customer service line from January is bitterly disappointing. With high street banks shutting their branches, leaving holes in our high streets, telephone banking has been a lifeline for a number of customers.
“The offer of a ‘call back’ service, which could take up to three days, for those wanting to use the Welsh language is a bit of a token gesture from a bank which at one time claimed to be the ‘the world’s local bank’.
“For a bank operating globally in a number of languages, I strongly urge HSBC to reconsider their decision and to keep Welsh-language provision available for customers as and when they need it.”
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