MANY EXPATS were taken by surprise by the Barclays Bank decision to notify them that it would be closing bank accounts held in Cyprus, with deposits of less than £100,000, in September. Loyal customers that had been banking with Barclays for decades will have to close their accounts and take their custom elsewhere because the bank has decided it does not want to deal with people that have anything less than £100,000 in their account. This discriminatory rule applies to accounts in Cyprus, Malta and, at a later stage, Greece.
A Barclays spokesman said “this isn’t about not providing services to expats, it’s about a de-risking programme that was put in place at the end of 2013 to review and reduce the number of countries we operate in.” This is the type of mumbo-jumbo bankers come up with to cover up the real reasons behind inexplicable decisions. Perhaps we do not know enough about banking, but we fail to see the risk of servicing accounts with 20, 30 or 50 thousand pounds and the need for the ‘de-risking programme’ to apply to them?
What Barclays is saying, with its techno-speak, we suspect, is that it does not want the custom of people with less than £100,000 in their account because such accounts are not considered profitable, given the higher administration costs, pushed up by the increasing demands for reports and information by regulatory authorities. But it is quite astonishing that the bank has no qualms about telling good and loyal customers of 50 years to close their accounts because they do not have a minimum of 100 grand deposited.
The bank could set this condition for opening new accounts but it is arbitrary and unfair when imposed on old customers. It is also discriminatory, even though the bank is entitled to set its own rules and would argue that it is not its concern if its new rule causes difficulties for expats receiving pension payments from the UK or penalises long-standing customers without adequate savings. The interests of a few thousand expat customers in tiny markets like Cyprus and Malta are, obviously, of no relevance when corporate decisions are taken by big multi-national banks like Barclays.
Expat account-holders are just victims of the bank’s ‘de-risking programme’ and there seems to be very little they can do about it, which is a great shame, given the shabby way they have been treated.