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HSBC closes Welsh language telephone line

15 Jan 2024 5 minute read
HSBC bank. Lucy North/PA Wire

Emily Price

HSBC has today scrapped its Welsh language customer service telephone line despite weeks of calls and campaigns by politicians to keep it open. 

In a statement on Monday (January 15), HSBC confirmed its Welsh language line had been closed down due to “an extremely low level of calls” to the service.

From today, any Welsh language calls will be routed to the bank’s main contact centre and undertaken by English speaking agents only.

Letter

Previously, Welsh speaking HSBC customers could undertake simple banking queries via the Welsh service line such a checking balances and making payments.

However, more complex requests such as Power of Attorney, bereavement or fraud were already required to be transferred to an English-speaking line to process.

The bank says that from now on, customers seeking to converse in Welsh can request a call back – but this will take three days.

HSBC announced the scrapping of the service in November via a letter to Welsh politicians.

The bank 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.

This was later disputed by the Senedd’s Culture, Communications, Welsh Language, Sport, and International Relations Committee which accused the bank of treating Welsh speakers with “contempt”.

Last week, Plaid Cymru MS, Llŷr Gruffydd made a last ditch plea to HSBC in the hopes that the bank would reverse its plans to axe the line.

However, the bank said its decision was “final”.

Welsh Conservative MS and Senedd Culture Committee member, Tom Giffard said: “It’s disappointing to see HSBC go ahead with the closure of their Welsh language line, particular after significant public outcry over the changes.

“Whilst HSBC will cite a lack of customers using the line as the reason for the closure; when HSBC representatives came to the Senedd’s Culture committee to explain the issue, we found that the quality of the service had been diminished by HSBC itself over a number of years and customers had lost patience with it.”

“Low level”

Following the closure of the line, HSBC said it was committed to customers and confirmed that it would not be announcing any new branch closures in Wales in 2024.

A HSBC UK spokesperson said: “We remain committed to supporting our Welsh language customers, but due to the extremely low level of calls into our dedicated Welsh-speaking line – fewer than 2 dozen calls a day on average – we need to make changes.

“If a customer does want to speak with a Welsh speaker, that still can be arranged. We will also continue to have Welsh speaking colleagues in half our Welsh branches and will continue to respond to customer correspondence in Welsh.”

Local bank

Plaid Cymru’s Llŷr Gruffydd said: “HSBC still has an opportunity to do the right thing by reversing its unacceptable and wrongheaded decision to bring its Welsh language phone service to an end.

“Executives at HSBC should remember that many customers use their banking services because of its Welsh language phone service.

“The bank argues that there isn’t sufficient demand for the helpline because it receives 22 calls a day on average.

“But it’s abundantly clear from the data that with only 6% of those calls being answered in Welsh, they’ve not been coming anywhere near to providing an adequate service.

“Phone calls that are made to the helpline in Welsh should be answered in Welsh. It’s no wonder that a lot of Welsh speakers have given up on phoning it.

“Instead of scrapping the service HSBC’s should invest in it properly for at least 12 months, and that includes ensuring that it is well-advertised. Then at the end of that period it could make a much better assessment of demand.

“The bank’s pledge to ‘arrange a call back in Welsh, within 3 working days is astonishingly disrespectful to Welsh speakers, as well as utterly insensitive to the financial pressures some people will face.

“For a significant number of people, accessing their bank through Welsh is not a ‘choice’ as HSBC claimed.

“HSBC say they ‘have confirmed that all customers can bank in English’, which is frankly an attitude that belongs to the last century. It is also untrue, especially for many elderly and vulnerable people.

“There is understandably a huge amount of anger and frustration right across Wales with HSBC’s general attitude towards the Welsh language.

“Recently I was contacted by a constituent who was quite rightly angry because she had been asked by a member of HSBC’s customer care team to resend a Welsh language query in English.

“That is one of many examples of HSBC’s complete and utter disregard for Welsh speakers.

“As a Welsh speaker myself and as a member of the Senedd’s Culture Committee, I share the real sense of frustration that’s out there.

“Many of their customers in Wales have also seen their local branches close over the last decade.

“The impact of this on their older customers is particularly acute, as well as those who don’t have access to digital technology.

“Though HSBC likes to describe itself as the world’s local bank, it is abundantly clear that this is not the case in Wales as it abandons Welsh speakers and abandons our high streets by shutting down local branches.”


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Frank
Frank
5 months ago

Shame on them.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
5 months ago

Which should be followed by HSBC customers in Wales close their accounts. If they don’t want to talk to us, we don’t want to talk to them.

Stevie B
Stevie B
5 months ago

Profit is the only thing that matters to them, people in communities are seen as an unnecessary inconvenience.

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
5 months ago

This, as much as anything underlines the need for the Welsh Government to pull its finger out and get on with establishing Banc Cambria.

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago

Meanwhile Barclays close 10 branches in Wales.

Switch banks.

David
David
5 months ago
Reply to  Jeff

Or switch to a building society (and do your banking through them).

Frank
Frank
5 months ago

I am old enough to remember interest rates on savings being close to 10% but the banks have turned that into bonuses for themselves instead. They will be charging us for having money in their banks next. I suppose they have already thought of that and are working on it.

robin campbell
robin campbell
5 months ago

Welsh Not

Finn
Finn
5 months ago

They’re one of the so called dirty Bank’s up to everything including gun running!!!😉

Average Pedestrian
Average Pedestrian
4 months ago

22 calls a day could be handled by 1 person. I mean a call lasts about 5 minutes so 22 calls is less than 2 hours. With such little demand, it seems mean to cut it.

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