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The story they begged me to write

The story they begged me to write

Samuel Potter has been amazed at the number of people who have asked him to write a story about HSBC in the UAE.

March 13, 2011 3:51 by

Another friend had to renew her UAE visa, and HSBC took it upon itself to freeze her account with no warning. To unfreeze it she was ordered to, you guessed it, attend the super-branch in Jebel Ali with her new visa. She now faces the inevitable time delay while she waits for the unfreeze. It wouldn’t be so bad, she told me, if they hadn’t done the exact same thing a few weeks back. She also told me about a time she transferred a large amount of money home, and HSBC ‘lost’ it for several days.

A quick troll around the forums can find numerous people who have bad things to say about HSBC. Here’s one, for instance, that I found in about four seconds. Friend of Kipp, Alex McNabb, is frequently reduced to temporary insanity by HSBC, as his many blogs demonstrate.

I can give you a few stories of my own. Like how I went to a branch to have a passport copy certified. The woman at the desk was ever so helpful, but she said that it had to be done – guess where? Yep, the super-branch. “You will have to demand they do it,” she said. “You will have to ask and ask. They will tell you they can’t do it, but they can.” Intrigued, I went to the main branch, and met with someone right away. He said he couldn’t do it, and the longest half hour of my life ensued. He said they used to do it, but a circular sent round last year instructed them not to certify anything that wasn’t an internal document. I said to him, so if a Premier customer strolled in here (they’re the high rollers with hundreds of thousands in the bank), and said “I need that signed,” you’d say no? He tried to convince me he would.

I battled, but in vain; he wouldn’t certify it. In the end I had to go to work, but I got nothing from them. What really got me was this – he had my details up on the system, and included with them was an electronic scan of my passport. I asked, could he print that out and certify it? No, of course he couldn’t.

That is by no means the only incident for me – we could talk about the credit card fiasco, the phone banking fiasco, or the home insurance fiasco – but I don’t want to drag this out.

If anyone from HSBC is reading this, I want you to know something: This is not a hatchet job. I have not set out to knock the bank down, and I dare say there are other banks in the country for which I could find similar tales if I looked. What I am doing is pointing out the incredible frequency with which I encounter someone with an HSBC UAE horror story, and the subsequent venom apparently felt towards them. I have names and contact details of all the people whose stories are mentioned in this piece, so I can’t be accused of lying or pursuing a vendetta. These are people who are genuinely upset and angry, that feel they have been failed, and worse, that feel that HSBC has failed to respond to their complaints with any degree of competence or decency. If someone from HSBC wants to respond, we always welcome that here – there’s always a right to reply.

Until then I’ll finish with the words of one guy I met this weekend, and a question. His words: “They are the worst bank in the world.” And my question: how can a bank, so respected globally, have such low standards locally? Or, to be more generous, have such a terrible reputation locally? Or am I, and all the people I have met, wrong?

Please post your comment below.

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  1. charles on March 14, 2011 4:17 am

    sadly this is very true Sam and nothing changes. I have been with Midland in UK, BBME as it was in Bahrain and HSBC. I have accounts in UK and Jersey but DXB is really beyond the pale. They make the right noises but it is all empty rattling. if you think Premier customers get it better, forget it. The latest is phone banking. You now have to enter the last 6 digits of your account to get through. Last 6 digits? I have to write it down and count back. Which HSBC fool decided on that brainwave to mess us up. Utter madness from DXB HSBC and nothing changes. They seem to compete to be worse than before in DXB. As an expat we all want a bank to put money in, get money out and transfer home. Sounds ideal for HSBC being globabl but they get it wrong nearly all the time. Sad, very sad.

  2. Lina on March 14, 2011 5:49 am

    You’ve hit the nail on the head Samuel when you asked the last question:” How can such a globally known bank, have low standards in the UAE..” well this is what is called the Icarus Paradox. to clarify, this is a phenomenon well known amongst business who sleep on their laurels.. by definition, Icarus paradox applies to businesses like HSBC who fail to maintain their efficiency and quality of service after so many years of success.. when the management adopts such an arrogant and complacent attitude, it surely is bringing about its won downfall.
    You and all their clients are doing them a favor by raising such concerns.. it’s up to them to listen or else, bye bye

  3. Ian on March 14, 2011 6:50 am

    I have been in the Middle East for 13 years and have been banking with HSBC for the same period of time. I have accounts with them all over the world. During the past 3 years they have gone from being a bank that seemingly was interested in me as customer to one that couldn’t care less about my business.

    My complaints about HSBC are frequent, wide and varied. Their response to the credit crisis was to pass on all of their problems to their customers. They have constrained my banking activities and frustrated me to a point where, I cannot continue to use them.

    Their bandage policies are designed by idiots (so they can save money) and pushed on to their clients under the guise that they are in our best interest. This is clearly not the case.

    I have told HSBC relationship managers (when I can get someone on the phone) on no less than 15 different occasions that I am so frustrated that I intend to close all of my accounts with them. This has been invariably been followed by a long pause on their end and then “can I help you with anything else”? On one occasion, I must confess I received a written response from the Manager of the Dubai branch (which I received with great excitement). Unfortunately it was a letter warning me about getting heated with their “customer service” representatives and made no reference to my concerns.

    As a company, they are not interested in listening to their customers – they have a nonsense formal complaints procedure which reads more like a university complaint arbitration process and promises would be users to be as poorly designed and frustrating as all of their other “procedures and systems” and will surely accomplish nothing. I have even asked my “personal relationship managers” what the procedure is from their side when a customer makes a complaint to which they respond – do you wish to make a formal complaint?…though I just had?

    There is a strange comfort in knowing that I am not alone in this regard. Needless to say, I am in the process of migrating all of my personal and corporate accounts (and my money) to another bank that treats me and my business as if they value the relationship (how strange?).

    You lose HSBC. Shame you didn’t go down in the crisis. In any event, if you continue along this path it is my sincerest hope that your bank will suffer greatly at the hands of your unsatisfied customers. You are a dinosaur and your management is asleep at the wheel.

    Ian Ohan

  4. Manav Rupani on March 14, 2011 7:54 am

    I agree and have faced similar situations with HSBC and most of the problems are due to the wrong people being hired for the wrong jobs. And i believe 99% of the problems are due to communication issues. Most people here don’t speak normal English and that’s the cause of all the mess ups. Another issue is the HUGE disrespect for time and this list goes on.

    Its important to note that ALL the other banks are the same or worse.

  5. Raj on March 14, 2011 8:17 am

    Oh boy, Kipp.
    You’ve just let the genie out of the bottle.
    There is going to be a torrent of abuse that will not die down.
    Nothing to get the blood boiling faster than a friendly interaction with good ol’ HSBC.
    Or any of the other UAE banks for that matter.

  6. Fred on March 14, 2011 8:54 am

    You, and your sources, are definitely not alone. I had the misfortune of a similar experience – an HSBC sales rep in a car dealership organised for me a loan and a credit card with it, all set up so that monthly repayments would be taken from the card. It seemed straightforward. Despite a reduction on the card limit of 95% (!) without notice when HSBC panicked and decided that actually all of their customers were potential defaulting criminals, I ensured there were always funds to cover the monthly payment.

    It didn’t take long for HSBC UAE to screw things up. After a few months I started receiving the monthly calls, asking why the loan wasn’t being paid. For over THREE years I would explain that the standing order was set up. A few clicks and the caller could confirm that the funds were indeed waiting to be credited. Occasionally I would make the trek out to the border to rage impotently against the machine ;-)

    I accumulated thousands of dirhams in late payment charges due to their inability to get their car loan and credit card people to have a conversation. Eventually I managed to get the charges removed, and was in the fortunate position that I could then pay the car loan, close that and the credit card, and never have to deal with them again.

    The moral of the story: never, ever, ever bank with HSBC UAE.

  7. Nick on March 14, 2011 10:04 am

    HSBC UAE is a terrible bank and the only incentive to bank with them is a relatively higher interest rate earned on the e-savings account. However, all the interest I earned over 4 years was greatly offset when HSBC failed to cancel a standing instruction that I had arranged to be stopped. I went through the entire verification process on the phone and HSBC’s customer service either hung up on me or disconnected me just after I received verbal confirnation and the service rep was asking me if there is anything else I needed. I didn’t think much of this as I finished my business. Well, about a month later I got aa SMS that indeed HSBC did make the standing instruction. Naturally the beneficiary refused to returm me the funds. HSBC was no help whatsover in the matter and told me the phone request was not completed after making me wait for several days. Bottom line: I lost AED 7,500 which I will never see again.

  8. Salma Sidki on March 14, 2011 10:21 am

    Hey Kipp,

    Great article – I’m so happy someone is finally speaking up about banking in the UAE. But just FYI, and I think perhaps in a follow-up article, you can compare HSBC to the other banks. You’ll find the same crap standard of customer service in the entire banking industry here.

    Why? Because save a few banks (and few employees for that matter) who are fully capable of understanding the value of customer service, none of them will actually make a significant change in their ways UNLESS a scandal breaks out – more particularly, a digital one.

    So, let’s get the word out about this article, tweet it, Facebook, e-mail – whatever. Trust that within a few hours, HSBC will hear about this and will begin working up a goodwill campaign – hopefully one with repercussions for longer than a few days.


  9. Yousef Choucair on March 14, 2011 10:41 am

    I got so frustrated with HSBC and I just found the perfect opportunity to voice and channel my frustration ..
    I came to know that a cheque bounced from my HSBC account. I was extremely surprised since the cheque was valid, and the account had enough credit, and on top of that, penalty charges were deducted from my account because my cheque bounced! I have been trying for almost two months now to understand the reason why the cheque has bounced, but HSBC representatives have failed to explain to me. Moreover, the other bank kept on calling me because the chq was not cashed, and like you said, in the UAE or any other country, you can get blacklisted for credit facility applications for the rest of your life! I kept on calling and sending emails ( most of them were ignored) and following up until after about 2 weeks i get my chq cashed, and it took them another 45 days to credit back the penalty charges, 45 days!! That’s true customer service if you were ever wondering!!! Unsurprisingly it’s still not over yet! After i raised so many complaints, the UAE Customer Experience Manager contacts me through email to apologize for the inconvenience that I might have experienced, MIGHT have experienced??!!. I replied back asking for an explanation for the inconvenience –that I might have experienced!- and for a letter stating that the chq have bounced through no fault of mine, just to clear my banking record and keep myself off the Blacklist.
    I would like someone from HSBC to read this and contact me, because I’m still waiting for an answer!

    Thank you Kipp, and Thank you Samuel!

  10. Andrew on March 14, 2011 11:46 am

    … don’t get me started on HSBC!

    They used to be excellent 10 odd years ago, but when they closed down their Middle East training centre things promptly went to pot.

    Last time I had the pleasure of dealing with them was (theoretically at least) in 2007 when I cancelled a couple of gold cards; 2 years later they will still trying to send me annual replacements.

  11. Andrew on March 14, 2011 11:56 am

    And for what it’s worth, let’s be honest – if you’re not a Premier account holder they couldn’t care less.

    In the last year or two they’d mentioned withdrawing all accounts for anyone under AED 20,000 a month. I can’t quite imagine a highstreet bank back in the UK telling someone you need to earn 40k a year to qualify for an account.

  12. RW on March 14, 2011 2:09 pm

    I can add my horror story about HSBC. I canceled both my credit cards because of the total lack of customer service. Bank personnel will lie to you without hesitation. I too am amazed that a global bank can give such poor customer service. I’ll never use them again or recommend them to anyone.

  13. ahmed on March 14, 2011 4:51 pm

    great report , well done kipp , we need more stuff like this . you only site who dare to speak .
    keep on .

  14. Raluca on March 14, 2011 5:49 pm

    I hate nothing but HSBC in this world…

  15. Neil on March 14, 2011 6:32 pm

    “HSBC – The World’s Bank”
    This slogan couldn’t be further from the truth. I had problems with my card in Brazil and couldn’t get money out. When I went into a branch, they told me they weren’t affiliated with the UAE so nothing could be done. I’ve also had problems taking out money in various other countries; frustrating, to say the least, to be strapped for cash on foreign soil.
    I’m not sure if it’s a worldwide problem with the bank or just here. And that’s just one of my problems with HSBC.
    Perhaps readers could suggest better alternatives in the UAE? I would move my account tomorrow if I knew of a better bank.

  16. Keefieboy on March 14, 2011 7:13 pm

    It is entirely possible that I still have an account with them, having left Dubai nearly 4 years ago. They refused to accept my email requests (through their ‘secure’ online banking thingy) and letters to close the account, insisting that I had to go to their Jebel Ali branch in person. Of course, I couldn’t do that at the time, having already left the UAE, and won’t be doing so in the future. And I dare say if I tried, I’d be arrested at the airport for non-payment of ‘maintenance charges’ for a ‘service’ they are no longer providing. I should point out that I never had a credit card from them, nor any kind of credit facility.

  17. David on March 14, 2011 8:25 pm

    I am so happy to say I’m leaving HSBC after 5 torturous years. I have no idea how it will be with the new bank. All I know is it feels damn good.

  18. Gareth Roberts on March 14, 2011 8:41 pm

    You’re probably better off letting a bunch of Nigerian email scammers handle your money than HSBC. At least the Nigerians know how to communicate and most of them seem to have Doctorates. HSBC UAE have taken poor customer service to mind-boggling levels of s***ness. I particularly like navigating their huge automated telephone tree, I love being massively disappointed by their inability to answer my questions, I always look forward to updating my details for the billionth time that week and I absolutely positively LIVE to be asked if ‘there’s anything else they can help me with’ when they’ve just spectacularly failed in helping me on any conceivable level whatsoever.

    Remember people, when THEY call you, always put them on hold for at least 40 minutes.

  19. mohammed tarazi on March 14, 2011 9:24 pm

    When is etisalat turn…. there service is down baddddly

  20. AB on March 15, 2011 7:44 am

    thank you Sam for this article. brave and much needed. you words are already very hot on the retweet scene. it’s about time somebody exposed HSBC for their shocking and insouciant consumer dismissal.

  21. Nic on March 15, 2011 10:14 am

    Thanks for writing this. Similar story here about HSBC incapable of handling cheques given correctly, putting the wrong month into my bank and then calling me ‘your cheque has been rejected you must pay now’……weeks of sorting it out. \

    Then suddenly apparently had no cheques left………..where did they go? The best was one day they called and I said I am Miss not Mister I’ve been telling you this for over a year now, the answer came ‘oh then sorry madame I can’t talk to you, cause for 1.5 years we could talk to you despite us putting you down as Mr. but now suddenly we decided we can’t you must call customer service. Paid off my car loan early fed up! And didn’t even get a receipt for the cash I gave them and utter refusal for destroying the remaining cheques in front of me. Knowing HSBC not a comfortable position to be in them holding cheques, which they shouldn’t be using anymore……will they?

  22. Damien on March 15, 2011 11:10 am

    Brilliant piece Sam. For those looking for an alternative bank – apart from that being every bank imaginable that is – I have my own personal experience after paying out the final two years of my car loan early just to escape the HSBC thieves.
    I have an account with Commercial Bank of Dubai and for six years they have been harmless. Not good but I haven’t had to make any complaints either. The bank that won my former HSBC business is Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank and from my own personal experience they have been brilliant. Great customers service, flexible, easy to talk to esp the Media City branch and super competitive. For what it’s worth, if you want to take your business away from HSBC try those two. My life lost a lot of stress the day I switched over from HSBC and focused on these other two

  23. Martin on March 16, 2011 9:33 am

    Another thing to check is their chip and PIN cards. Apparently you can type in any old PIN and it will accept the charge. Worth trying on your cards next time.

  24. Loren on March 16, 2011 10:48 am

    I thought HSBC had finally entered the modern age a couple of months ago when I received my chip and pin debit card…. however… it’s a complete joke. Any number you put in when asked to put in your pin purchasing goods works. My colleague in the office has the same problem… When complaining to HSBC they say that this is impossible and will not acknowledge it. So if you have a debit card with chip and pin… be warned!!

  25. Ian C on March 16, 2011 4:30 pm

    I’ve been with HSBC since 1990 – 21 years. Like everyone else I’ve got so many stories of utter and total incompetence. So many I can’t even begin to start telling them here. Suffice to say, never have I witnessed such worse service than here in the Middle East. They simply don’t care.

    So I’m voting with my feet and closing my account. Hat’s off to them! That really takes something!

    Instead, I’ve joined Lloyds – funnily enough the same bank I joined as a teenager all those years ago. I now have a real relationship manager, not a call center, someone whom I’ve met, had emails from and who actually cares! And the bottom line, I’m safe in the knowledge that no-one, and I mean no-one could be worse than HSBC!

  26. Ana on March 17, 2011 8:11 am

    Thank you!

    Now if we could only start a support group for victims of HSBC. Anyone?

  27. Bob on March 17, 2011 1:06 pm

    Last June, I began to receive calls from HSBC’s Call Centre. They informed me that I owed them Dhs 60,000/- and must pay this amount immediately, otherwise I would receive a ‘Travel Ban!’ They could not comprehend the fact, that I have never had an account with HSBC! I have been with Mashreq for over 15 years, and have never had a problem!

  28. Aly on March 18, 2011 12:26 am

    HSBC and SCB both need to be categorized in the same league…They are both equally inefficient especially due to outsourcing their customer service staff…That’s the major issue with staff that keep changing…One week you’re talking to XYZ, then next DEF, then another day ABC…its weird but most banks out here have this problem. Mashreq too has its problems, as they are also coming under the same issues. Good luck y’all.

  29. Mohamed on March 18, 2011 9:17 pm

    HSBC declined to follow written instructions to transfer my funds from Egypt (HSBC account as well!!) before the revolution to my newly opened Premier account in the UAE. After calling my relationship manager in the midst of the clashes she denied knowing me or receiving instructions. This went on back and forth for a few weeks until I physically flew into Cairo to get the funds myself. I have complained to the Central Bank here, but haven’t heard back except for my relationship manager in Cairo who was threatened to get fired for helping out. It is very poor performance and something needs to be done

  30. Haresh on March 19, 2011 9:25 am

    International banks are far better than local banks whose employees and customers are disappointed.

  31. Dileep on March 19, 2011 9:29 am

    Before opening an account with any bank, ask its employees if they are happy with their employer. If yes go ahead and open your account but if not then better stay away from it. This is the simple secret of good banking with a good bank.

  32. Corben on March 23, 2011 8:48 pm

    Dont you guys know that HSBC UAE is “” not really HSBC”…??? Its a white label…a facade… Bank of the Emirates is the back end…

    Yet again, who doesnt have issues with an UAE bank. They r all crap. Banking system here is a joke; lets see how the “ban” of selling crap on the phone is “enforced”…

  33. MK on March 24, 2011 11:08 am

    For me, the worse part of it all is that I’ve just become so accustomed to getting bad customer service, that even when somebody does anything minutely nice (not to mention it is within their job description anway), I get suprised!
    Unfortunately, I’ve just come to terms with not getting the same level of satisfaction from anything here anymore!
    And by the way….how about Etisalat or DEWA? Let’s open up the can of worms on them too while we’re at it :)

  34. Eddy on May 23, 2011 2:07 pm

    Only just seen this and I must say that I have never experienced such an awful service in any industry in all my lifetime and I’ve had to deal with some shockers!
    I’m amazed at how, when it comes down to it, they really don’t care!! They screw up your account, affect you financially and then offer an apology but do nothing to rectify your predicament apart from “Raise you a complaint” that is then responded to “within 3 working days”…if you’re lucky
    Surely something can be done about them? Mass boycott? I’d really be willing to put in the time and energy to arrange it that’s how aggrieved and vexed I am by them!!!

  35. Tony Severs on March 7, 2012 5:16 pm

    I think HSBC (Middle East) has got to be the worst bank in the world. I had an account with them and in December 2004 and I closed it when I left the Middle East, recieving a letter from them for my employer confirming I had no outstanding business with the bank.
    In November, because I was returning to the Middle East, I tried to open an account in Qatar. I discovered I could not, despite being a ‘Premier’ customer in the UK. It transpires that in January 2005, after I left the bank, they applied an annual fee for the next year to my account, they didnt tell me about this of course, and consequently this supposed debt built up, and as I had no knowledge of it, I had no way to clear it.
    When I tried to open the account in Qatar and was told that I had some debt, they could not tell me what had caused the original debt, so to make things easy for myself, I paid the original amount, only to discover that despite this, and despite 3 months of trying to get someone within the bank to realise how ludicrous the situation is, I remain blacklisted, so I have finally decided to take the hint and I am taking my business elsewhere.
    Surely a bank that blacklists you for not paying a fee, you should not have to pay as you are no longer a customer, that it doesn’t tell you about, that refuses to reverse its decision despite agreeing that what its done is wrong, has got to be a contender for the worst bank ever!


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