• Sun
  • Sep 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:27pm


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He had turned to the bank's website after discovering that the ATM card he was issued in Hong Kong was no longer valid due to a security upgrade.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

Has HSBC refunded him for the inconvenience?
The Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong can be dragged into this story. I have held an account with the New Town Plaza Shatin Branch. At the time of opening this account, I was residing in Bangkok.
Four years ago I relocated to Dongguan for work reasons. About three months ago, I travelled to HK for a relaxing weekend, only to find that my ATM card was not useable due to a security upgrade. This was realised on a Friday evening after arriving, so all I had on me was a small amount of RMB. I was forced to seek out an old friend and borrow money from him. On the Saturday morning I visited the bank in question and had to submit new application forms for an updated ATM card, at the same time using my passport to draw money.
The newly submitted forms quite rightly required my Dongguan address, which was written in English. They told me the new card would be sent there within the month. Nothing arrived. I then made the effort to travel back to HK to the bank who suggested that my address should be written in Chinese, my forms were resubmitted with the address modified to Chinese.
Last week I was in UK on business when I received a call from the SCB HK stating that they would post to me in Dongguan yet even more forms for me to sign, which I had to send back to them so as they could reissue my card.
When I asked the caller to which address she would send these forms, she told me the English address, which previously was not acceptable. I give in.
Hopelessly Stupid Banking Corporation
Another brilliant example of 'World's local bank' proving itself World's biggest ridiculous bank. HSBC is currently a team of highly inefficient, unproductive and above all lip-sealed officers who does not want to comment on anything other than a clear NO for all your help requests. I wish they would save the disgrace to Hong Kong by changing the name to some other Banking Corporation instead of bringing Hong Kong this shame.
They really are the world's bank, he got to travel the world because of them!
I also face numerous time when the signature does not match ... lucky i am in HK but still.
I see HSBC has not changed much the past 15 years.
When going to the UK to study in 2000, I held a bank draft from HSBC Hong Kong and entered the british HSBC. I left and had to go to another bank to open an account since HSBC UK said they could not 'process/cash' the bank draft.
It took me almost two months to link my HK and Singapore accounts. I had to make a special trip for over 2 hours to the US branch to have my documents and signature witnessed and was told after three weeks that the application form had to be refilled due to an error which the US bank clerk did not spot. Once my Singapore account was opened, it took over two weeks for me to be able to access the Hong Kong account because I was not issued a Singapore security account until then. This costed me an apartment which I intended to rent and lots of anxiety after moving to a new country. Then just this weekend, my Singapore ATM card was frozen because I did not use the passwords that the bank mailed me (instead of passwords of my own choice) and was told that it would take four days to change them. Then the clerk told me that she did not know whether I could use my HK premier ATM card on an HSBC machine without charge despite me having be informed the same a week ago that I could. It was a nightmare dealing with them and I am moving my money to another bank for sure.
Banks don't "serve" you. You are here to keep their staff employed and the senior staff well-paid and, oh yes, give their shareholders a little something called "dividend".
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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