• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 2:39pm


The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation was founded in Hong Kong on March 3, 1865, and in Shanghai one month later. In 1980, HSBC acquired 51 per cent of Marine Midland Bank, buying the rest in 1987. HSBC Holdings was established in Britain in 1991 as the parent of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation ahead of its purchase of the UK-based Midland Bank and the impending 1997 transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain to China. 

NewsHong Kong

HSBC customer forced to make 16,000-kilometre trip to access account after bank blunder

Robert Lewis had to fly from Australia to Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 4:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 June, 2014, 11:36am

When former Hong Kong resident Robert Lewis opened an account with the 'world's local bank' he thought HSBC would be able to cater for all his financial needs, wherever in the world he went.

Little did he know that due to a breakdown in communication over his signature, he would be forced to embark on a marathon 16,000-kilometre round-trip from his native Australia to Hong Kong, simply to access his cash.

Now he is seeking AUS$5,000 (HK$36,000) from the bank to cover the cost and inconvenience of his journey.

Lewis's problems started in April when he tried to access his account online from his home in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales.

He had turned to the bank's website after discovering that the ATM card he was issued in Hong Kong was no longer valid due to a security upgrade.

The account had not been used since he returned to Australia in August 2011.

Once online Lewis discovered he was unable to gain access to the account as he did not have an internet security device

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To get one, the 55-year-old learnt that he would have to travel to an HSBC branch and change his address in person.

This involved a 10-hour round trip to Sydney, 455 kilometres away - an inconvenience that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Two weeks later, and despite being approved by two HSBC officers in Sydney, the Hong Kong branch rejected the change-of-address application on the grounds that his signature did not match the one on its records.

That left the education consultant with no choice but to fly to Hong Kong and confront staff himself.

Lewis said his travails made a mockery of the bank's "world bank" claims and the convenience of its network.

"The first port of call is the nearest branch, where you expect there's a relationship between all these branches," Lewis said.

"This has cost me an incredible amount of time and income, inconvenience, stress and anxiety. It is hardly the thing you expect from an international bank."

Lewis is seeking redress for the cost of travel and loss of earnings, as well as a goodwill payment for the hassle.

After the Post took up his case, HSBC contacted Lewis on Friday to apologise. It indicated the bank had made a mistake in processing his application.

Lewis said he had shown bank officials in Sydney his passport and Hong Kong identity card.

"Hong Kong could have spoken to Sydney and faxed a copy of the documents to confirm they had sight of my forms," he said.

But the confusion continued when he arrived in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Lewis first visited a Sheung Wan branch, and was surprised not to be quizzed about his signature. Staff said it could not give him an internet security device.

Days later he visited another branch and was given one, highlighting the inconsistencies in advice and service the bank gave.

An HSBC spokesman said the bank was checking the case and would not comment on the affairs of individual customers.

The bank, which dropped its claim to be "the world's local bank" in 2012, will decide tomorrow what redress, if any, to give Lewis.

This is not the first time it has faced complaints about its international credentials.

The Hong Kong operation apologised last year after issuing new ATM cards linked to China's UnionPay network rather than the international Plus system, leaving customers struggling to withdraw money abroad.


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This article is now closed to comments

Reminds me of the time I acquired a USD credit card from the HSBC New York branch for use when traveling in the USA. I arrived in San Francisco and the card was rejected on my first transaction when checking into the hotel as the card was being used outside my home country (HK). Astounding...incredible. I cancelled the card immediately upon my return to HK and switched to SCB, a real international bank.

I hadn't heard HSBC had dropped "the world's local bank" slogan but I guess it became a joke to everyone but the inbred senior management at the Bank.
It astonishes me why anyome would want to do business with this bank in the first place.
HSBC is still in the stone age compared to its competitors websites and ease of navigation. If you have poor eye sight I suggest your move banks before trying to navigate its clumsy fine print squeezed between its massive columns of self promotion and advertising. That and the fact every time you should want to do something different you need to contact the bank. How they don’t envisage you might want to use a range of services when you start banking is a mystery. If you however worry about the safety of your money this is the bank for you. Forget firewalls and encryption, it is hard enough for you the customer to access and move your own money, criminals are bound to have given up just trying to find the logon.
HSBC is slowly but surely moving to become a Chinese bank, but , unlike Hongkong, is going through the process voluntarily.
I was one of those customers who tried to use the stupid union pay HSBC debit cards in the HSBC head off in Lima, Peru only to be told I could not access my account with it. I had to go to a local bank which did allow me to withdraw money from my HSBC account and pay the fee for doing so. Despite how they portray themselves they are truly parochial and local. Try getting a UK HSBC branch to work with an HSBC branch in HK on any issue. Impossible and pathetic.
This is HK Banks usual problem .... happened to me already several times.
Earlier this month I was told that my signature on a document is not matching the one on file,
A cheque issued the same day, for the same transaction matter and with the same signature, was cashed in without a problem.
HK Banks reply to this = "different departments use different ways of checking ".......
Years ago, after this happened the first time, I singed a cheque with DONALD DUCK just to find out, how careful HSBC is .... it was cashed in without question.
Absolute rubbish, their service is 2nd class at best. I shut my HSBC account and moved elsewhere and have experienced absolutely zero problems with Standard Chartered. Don't be lazy, make the switch and say goodbye to dealing with morons.
why should he expect problems? this IS his money, why do you think he needs to "use" the account? i can buy a teddy bear and let it sit in the closet, so what? MY TEDDY BEAR, MY property.
Took me months to move my MPF / same scam with claiming my signature didn't match their file / had to go to a branch change my signature then wait another month then resubmit the transfer form and wait 6 weeks while they transferred the funds ... I just wish I could close my bank account with them but I can't be bothered going thru the grief of opening a new account with another bank in Hk.
HSBC trapped over $10,000.00 USD of my money in 2012 for over 6 weeks. They couldn't get out of their own way and tried to send it back to me in the US twice by check while I was standing in the Hong Kong main building.
Very over rated as the "world's bank".



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