Yesterday in Caldicot, Monmouthshire home of our central news division the HSBC bank closed its doors. Well, actually they just took all the signs down and left the doors open for the day whilst they moved stuff out of the unit.
I vaguely remember when it was a West Midlands bank branch before it was taken over by HSBC about fifteen / twenty years ago (I think). Since then HSBC has always had a branch here in Caldicot.
To say that we weren’t given ample notice wouldn’t be true, the bank did in fact advertise the fact that they were going to be closing this branch as well as other branches in Usk but it isn’t until you see the empty unit and all of the fancy furniture being wheeled out that you realise that it’s happened and that the affect on the local community cannot be positive.
While on one hand the Post Office can offer certain services to HSBC customers many services they cannot cover. The nearest alternative branch to Caldicot is Chepstow which, arguably not far for a driver could be the other side of the world to someone who suffers with getting about. Not only that, how inconvenient is it that you need to get a bus ticket every time you want to see your bank advisor?
I don’t bank with HSBC but it annoys me nonetheless because I can’t find a good enough reason for why they would close the branch. Is it because online banking is so popular? Well granted it has become more and more widely used over the past six years but is it used enough to justifying a small town bank?
HSBC was always busy when I walked by it. Busy in relative terms because unlike a Cardiff branch it had two bank tellers and perhaps one or two advisors but for here that is busy.
It also comes across as rude. Clearly HSBC don’t care about their staff whether relocated or not. The staff there have no doubt built rapport with customers over the years, seeing the same faces coming in with their savings, discussing future holidays or extensions on the home. That’s over now, the tellers are no more and the customers are either looking up bus times or going over the road to Lloyds.
There’s also the fact that we, the public bailed out the banking system a few years ago and kindly refrained from jailing bankers who were in no doubt guilty of corruption and gambling with our money unbeknownst to us. The only country that jailed its bankers and paid back its people was Iceland. We allowed them to continue and what’s worse, we allowed them to continue having bonuses. Bonuses that was our money. Of course, it wasn’t us, the people who said ‘yes let’s bail out the banks for their mistakes’ it was our government who did it on our behalf and they haven’t done anything since to try and change the system.
Was this due to the banking system losing money? Are they no longer able to afford to run smaller branches? In which case, stop giving yourself massive bonuses and fund these branches so that your customers, the people that made you who you are today can deposit and withdraw their cash. This isn’t the same as a small business closing because it failed in a small town. This is the HonkKong and Shanghai Banking Corporation a bank which paid out an easy fine of $1.9bn when found guilty of laundering money for the Mexican drug cartel but can’t sustain a small branch of skeleton staff in South Wales?
Do you remember when the bank took up two units as well? Before they downsized? Well, that was a result of the building’s roof needing repair work and the landlord told each tenant business that they would have to pay the bill. The cost of which exceeded HSBC’s individual bank repair budget for the year so they downsized as opposed to paying for it. Banks such as HSBC act above the law, giving out bonuses and awards to staff purely on their own figures and regardless of social or economic consequences. On one hand maybe we’re lucky that the branch just closed quietly and that was that, but the inconvenience and rudeness of it should be remembered.
As for the town, we are left with another empty retail unit, only this one isn’t sat there ready for a business to move in. No, it’s all bank-like and limiting in its uses. Large amounts of money will need to be spent to un-bank the unit and allow it to be a potential shop again. Given HSBCs regional closures across Monmouthshire as well as their closures (and other banks, Natwest for one) across Wales it’s unlikely that we will be seeing another bank go in its place.
In fact, we probably won’t be seeing anything go in its place for a long time.
As for me, I’ll always have a piece of this bank in my garden.
In an EU related note, the money grabbing £7.3 million pound in bonus receiving Big Boss Stewart Gulliver has stated that should Britain leave the EU they will likely send at least 1000 banking jobs from London to Paris.