A robber escaped from an HSBC branch yesterday with what is believed to be the smallest amount stolen in any raid in recent years - $500 in $20 notes. He approached the counter of the bank in Waterloo Road, Kowloon City, and handed in a note claiming he had a gun and demanding $50,000. When a male teller, who thought he was joking, showed the note to a colleague, the robber shouted that he also had a bomb. A police spokesman said the man then placed his hand under his shirt to suggest he was armed. A second teller handed him a bundle of 25 $20 banknotes. The robber grabbed the cash and fled. About 10 customers were in the bank at the time. It was probably the smallest amount stolen in a bank robbery in recent years, a police spokesman said. A detective added robbers usually insisted on several thousand dollars, but declined to speculate on whether the $500 robbery was a sign of the economic slowdown. But Ho Hei-wah, director of the Society for Community Organisation, said the incident reflected the downturn. 'The cash he stole is enough to buy a few meals. He obviously felt he had no choice and tried to steal as much as possible,' he said. An HSBC spokeswoman refused to comment on the robbery. The robber was aged between 30 and 40, 1.67 metres tall and had a tattoo of a leopard on his left arm. He was wearing a red-grey polo shirt. Police said there were 12 bank robberies in the first seven months of the year. There were 13 cases in the same period last year.