09 November 2006

HSBC, a tribute to the world's local bank - Part 1/3

Everyone who is courageous or simply unlucky enough to be in need for a UK bank account, may nod in sympathy, remembering similar experiences with the bank of their choice. The reason: In the UK, it takes at least one month to get the holy grail, a bank account because you have to prove that you are neither a fraud, a terrorist or a money launderer. In most cases this will be HSBC, "the world's local bank" as they call themselves, represented in I don't know many countries. As it turns out, HSBC has more customers than it can manage or they simly don't care a shit about customer satisfaction (it is nearly impossible to find a contact adress for this purpose on their website). But let me introduce you to my very own ordeal:

Once upon a time, it might have been 27 August, in a country not so far away (Austria), there was a student that wanted to apply for an International Bank Account at HSBC for she would leave the country on 23 September to start a new life as a student in the United Kingdom.

- I go their website and apply online. I fill out a form and am required to enter a UK telephone number. How am I supposed to have one??? After an hour of racking their elaborate website and trying different numbers via Skype, I am finally connected to...

- ..."HSBC International", the division that is rumored to be responsible for international accounts. I ask the guy who picks up the phone ("Good evening, my name is John, how can I help?") for help on what to write in the required field "UK telephone number". "Enter your Austrian number." OK. I try. Error message: Too many digits. "Enter any number. If there is space at the end of the application, you can enter a note there to explain." - "And if there isn't?" - "Then call us back." I had to.

- Two weeks pass (the usual maximum time it takes to open a bank account in Austria), and still no confirmation letter from HSBC. My application might just as well have never happened.

- I call them. The woman says: "Of course you have to fill out a printed form, you cannot just apply online!" (which contradicts the information on their website). I ask her where I can come by a form. She tells me to go to offshore.hsbc.com.

- I download the form which has 29 pages that I printed in colour (what a waste of ink). Upon discovering difficulties with filling out the form, I call them. Turns out that this is a form for an offshore account that requires a minimum sum of 10 000 €. Ergo: HSBC International is not HSBC Offshore and I found out before the woman that told me the link. She promises to have the responsible department send me the correct form.

- Half a week passes and I still haven't received any e-mail attachment or mail. I request to be called back. They do. I ask the employee if we can arrange for a personal branch that will guide me through this and where I can go to later. I am told: "You can't just pop into a branch!" (HSBC International and HSBC UK are two separate things but both are centred on the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man).

- I call back minutes later because I have another question and this time I am advised to open a UK account which, as I explain to the employee, I have read on their webpage to be only possible for those non-UK residents that have already been resident in the UK for three years.
It's now 11 September.

- On 13 September, around midnight (24/7 hotline) I arrange to be called back (I had quit internet at my flat and didn't have a landline. So I called my mum, who called them via her landline and gave them my mobile number). Where on that damned webpage can I find the form or what has happened to my request? I expected a database at their call centre but they don't have one and he couldn't give me the information I needed either. It's not the employees' fault but they are not trained enough to give competent answers. He claims not to be responsible, so he gives me a number that is available from 8 am the next morning. I was so angry that tears welled up in my eyes and I couldn't sleep.

2 courageous comments!:

Kat said...

*hugs* poor you... I remember my own ordeal with Halifax, but it wasn't nearly as bad as yours...

Heidi Jahn said...

*darkly* the story continues...