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Last ditch plea to save HSBC Welsh language phone line as cut off looms

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

Emily Price

A last ditch plea has been made to HSBC in the hopes that the bank will reverse its decision to axe its Welsh language customer service phone line.

In November last year in a letter to Welsh politicians, HSBC announced an end to the service because of a “steady decline” in its usage

HSBC 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 call 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”.

Committee members said HSBC had provided a “misrepresentation of the facts” because of the Welsh calls the bank receives, 94 per cent were not being answered in Welsh, despite speakers requesting to use the service.

The Committee said that the supposed low number of calls to the line reflected the bank’s “inability to provide a functioning and coherent service” that meets the needs of  Welsh speaking customers.

Despite an evidence session between the Committee and Head of Wealth and Personal Banking, José Carvalho, HSBC refused to backtrack on its plans to axe the service saying the decision was “final”.

“Right thing”

In a last ditch attempt to persuade the bank, Plaid Cymru MS, Llŷr Gruffydd has called on HSBC’s executives “to do the right thing”.

Mr 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.”


If HSBC sticks to its plans to scrap the service then from next week, only English-speaking agents will be available to answer customers.

Managing Director of Wealth and Personal Banking, Oliemata O’Donoghue says that if a customer requests support in Welsh, they will receive a call back by a Welsh speaking advisor “within three working days”.

But Mr Gruffydd says a three day wait is “astonishingly disrespectful”.

The north Wales MS said: “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.”

Welsh speaking

A HSBC 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.

On the constituent mentioned by Mr Gruffydd who told him they had been asked by a member of HSBC’s customer care team to resend a Welsh language query in English, HSBC said: “We have not been provided with the specific details of this customer so have not been able to look into whether this was through our Live Chat service, secure e-message (which are both English only) or another channel.

“We’d be keen to make contact with the customer to discuss the matter and understand more about what has happened.”

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Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
6 months ago

Cânt fynd i’r diawl. Dw i wedi gwagio fy nghyfrifon efo nhw. Dim mwy o fynd i gardota at fanciau mawr rhyngwladol. Llywodraeth Cymru, sefydlwch Banc Cambria.

6 months ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

Clywch clywch.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 months ago
Reply to  Rhufawn Jones

cytuno’n llwyr

6 months ago

Back in 3 days ? Does it take that long to find a Welsh speaker in that crappy organisation ?

6 months ago

All the major banks suck . High time we had a Welsh bank.
I’m quite old, over the years I have moved from one horrible bank to another, over various abominable actions, mergers or closures. They all have acted dreadfully at some point or another. Credit unions can never compete when we all need debit cards and direct debits etc.

I haven’t forgotten 2008. Even though the so called Law has.


Last edited 6 months ago by Erisian
Cymro Penperllenni
Cymro Penperllenni
6 months ago

Warthus. Wnes I gadael HSBC rhyw 5 mlynedd nol achos oedd y ffurflenni wedi mynd o fod yn ddwyieithog I uniaith saesneg. Hefyd o ni wedi Sylwi bod yr amser I ateb y llinell Gymraeg yn cynyddu ac yn y diwedd roedd neb yn ateb y ffon. Roedd hyn yn fwriadol ar ran HSBC

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