MS issues last ditch plea to HSBC to reverse decision to axe Welsh language phone line

An MS has issued a last ditch plea to HSBC to reverse its “unacceptable” decision to axe its Welsh language phone service.

Llŷr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, has spoken out as January 15, the date when the phone line is due to come to an end fast approaches.

The Plaid Cymru politician said executives at the baking giant still have an “opportunity to do the right thing”.

HSBC came under fire after politicians were informed of the bank's decision to axe its Welsh language service by letter on Wednesday, November 8.

The Senedd’s Culture Committee wrote to the corporation accusing it of “contempt” towards Welsh speakers.

It added that its "failure to maintain an approach consistent with its values is considered disingenuous and disturbing".

The committee also questioned statements made by José Carvalho, HSBC's head of wealth and personal banking, who spoke in front of it on November 29.

The banker said that the Welsh-language helpline receives around 22 calls a day, and that the bank had ended up "with only 6% of the calls that are coming in being answered in Welsh” by them.

However, the committee hit back saying this indicates a fundamental failure of service by the bank because it means 94% of calls to the service are not being answered in Welsh,.

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

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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  • Marc Jones
    published this page in News 2024-01-11 16:38:39 +0000

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