Cyprus Mail

A post-Brexit runaround with HSBC bank

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Many people, me included, have been slamming the Cyprus banks for being slow, inefficient and bureaucratic. Based on my experience with HSBC, however, Cyprus banks are light years ahead when it comes to customer service.

Back in November 2020 I received a letter from a UK bank that I had an account with, informing me I had to withdraw my money because my account would be closed by the end of the year as part of the bank’s post-Brexit policy.

I had opened this account a few years ago to pay for my sons’ living expenses while studying in the UK and it proved very useful (immediate transfers, very low if any charges), so I decided to check if there was any other UK bank that would open an account for someone with an overseas address.

The only bank that offered this was HSBC, specifically saying on their website that overseas (EU) address was not an issue for them.

In early December I completed an online form for a joint account with my other half with relative ease but as I could not visit an HSBC branch, I had to certify the names (passports) and our permanent address (utility bills) and mail these to them.

I hurriedly had them certified and sent them to HSBC via registered mail. Before Christmas I was informed (via letter) that the wording of the certification was incorrect and I had to send correctly-worded versions. This time I followed their instructions to the last word, had them certified and verified with all the necessary information and sent the envelope by courier service to make sure it got there.

Just before the end of the year I called HSBC to see if the documents had arrived. After being kept on hold for 15-20 minutes, I was told the documents were received and needed to be processed.

That is when my real nightmare with HSBC began.

I do not know how many times I called them, but I have noted at least 7 calls that I made to them, each lasting more than 30 minutes.

On the four times (I have noted date and time) I called them between early January and March 10, I was told that my account had not been opened as it was being processed and because of the pandemic there were delays.

On March 15, I called again and after explaining my predicament yet again I was told that my account application had expired and I had to go through the process again. I was furious, I started shouting and asked to talk to talk to a manager as I wanted an explanation.

I was put on hold again and when the operator returned he told me that my application was activ and if I do not hear from them again in a week’s time I should call a certain number. He also told me that as soon as they have an update, the relevant department will either call or email me (something they promised in almost all my previous calls).

Predictably, nobody called or emailed me so on March 24 I called the number I was given. The lady at the other end was surprised as it was not her department that dealt with new accounts but she offered to help.

She said: “Sir did you not get our letter dated March 16? If not, shall I read it out for you?” And she did.

The letter dated March 16th, a day after my application had expired and been subsequently reinstated and after my meltdown, said that the bank could not verify my address/and or name!!

So after waiting for 3 months without hearing a single word from them, in 24 hours they decided that my details were unverifiable!

I know for sure that the documents I sent them were correctly certified, because I followed their instructions to the letter. Even in the highly unlikely event there was something wrong with my documents, why had they needed three months to let me know. The documents had the official stamp (including address and telephone number) and signature of the solicitor I used (and paid). If they lost the documents that is another story.

In all my calls I pleaded with them for an answer, a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, but was never given one.

I have already filed a complaint with both the HSBC and Resolver UK, and I am curious to hear what they will say. If HSBC has such difficulty opening an account for an overseas customer, why on earth does it promote this service?

(name and address supplied)

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