When the Chairman of HSBC Bank, Douglas Flint, appeared before Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee back in 2015 to face questions on the bank’s activities, he admitted his shame at “a terrible list” of misdemeanors. He wasn’t wrong. It included Libor manipulation, mis-selling mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Forex rigging, weakness in money laundering and systematic aiding of tax avoidance for the wealthy clients at HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary.
Two years on, we can now add disregard of local communities and high streets to that list. Last year, HSBC closed over 200 branches – more than any of the other major banks – and they’ve just announced another 62 closures this year, including one right here in Wood Green.
Gone is their commitment to being the “world’s local bank”. If they carried on at this rate, they’d have no branches left by the end of 2019.
Closing the busy Wood Green HSBC branch would come as a real blow to the many residents and businesses who rely on its over-the-counter branch services and to the dedicated branch staff whose jobs are now under threat. Existing customers are being told that their accounts will be moved over to the Palmers Green branch, two miles away. That’s particularly difficult for older and disabled people who now face a bus or car journey to talk face-to-face to bank staff and are less likely to use telephone or internet banking. Likewise, local businesses who need to bank their cash each day understandably don’t want the safety and security risks, or the inconvenience, of having to travel long distances with it.
It feels like the pursuit of ever bigger profits by bank bosses is being placed above the needs of HSBC’s many customers.
It also feels like an incredibly shortsighted decision. With a £3.5-billion-pound investment plan in the pipeline to transform Wood Green over the coming years and deliver thousands of new homes, jobs, retail, office and leisure space, now isn’t the time to close the doors. Wood Green has so much to offer and I’d like to see HSBC putting something back into the community, staying and becoming part of the transformation – not leaving behind an unwelcome gap on the high street.
I have called for an urgent meeting with HSBC bosses to discuss these proposals and will be seeking to persuade them to rethink their misguided plan. If you bank there, drop me a line with your thoughts or come along to one of my regular advice surgeries. I want to send the message loud and clear that there is strong local opposition to the closure.
I’ve also set up a petition against the closure – you can sign it at: www.catherinewest.org.uk/save_wood_green_hsbc.