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Friday, 29 April 2011

Our MP hits HSBC brick wall

Our local MP, Desmond Swayne has done his best to save our banking facilities in Milford on Sea village.  Like all other attempts, it appears to me that he has now experienced the HSBC attitude problems first hand. Desmond met with Mr Lester Wynne-Jones the South West Regional Director of HSBC. His main effort was to persuade him to engage in a public meeting with the community in Milford on Sea. Mr Lester Wynne-Jones was not persuaded. Apparently sensitive little HSBC believe that they have already incurred significant adverse publicity and that such an event would inevitably lead to more. With a bit of luck he is referring to the ranting on these pages. What HSBC obviously doesn’t get is that they have gone about this whole episode appallingly, and then they expect us to lay down reverently, being grateful that they are still happy to look after our money miles away. They just don’t get it, do they.

Desmond rightly argued forcefully that if people felt that they had been properly listened to and had had the opportunity to have their say. this would be to the bank's credit. Having also failed with this argument, Desmond then sought to persuade him to - at least - engage in a meeting with a smaller number of, say, half a dozen activists leading the campaign. He could not persuade him to do this either. Apparently, Mr Wynne-Jones was emphatic that the bank much prefers to work with ‘individual customers’ and would give one to one time to those customers who wish to have it, in order to assist them with the arrangements that they will need to make for their banking needs when the branch closes. Nice to know HSBC are willing to talk to their individual customers.

Not giving up, & changing tack, Desmond then drew to his attention the results of the survey of the branch usage carried out by members of our community; the evidence that the branch was significantly better used than others; that strategies for increasing the level of business had not been explored, and that no indication had been given that the branch was under threat until the announcement was made out of the blue.

Mr Wynne-Jones found these arguments compelling and immediately apologised for not having any consultation process. He then agreed that the branch should indeed stay open. Oh no, my mistake, he actually replied with the still unsubstantiated corporate line that ‘the Milford branch had been among the least cost effective… ya, de, ya, de ya’.

Mr Wynne-Jones was emphatic that HSBC were making every effort to secure a permanent cash dispensing facility in the village. (The joint venture with BT, which removes our red telephone box.) Should they fail to do so, they would retain the existing facility until a convenient alternative was available. The ATM cash machine will of course continue to generate revenue for HSBC from an empty building they have to pay rent on anyway.

Desmond came to conclusion, that despite his best efforts, that it was clear that the decision to close the branch had been taken and was not going to be reviewed.

Desmond also contacted RBS, from which he got a reasoned and polite reply. Whilst they did not see opening a branch in Milford on Sea as viable, it was interesting to read their statement that; ‘We appreciate how valued local branches can be, particularly in smaller rural communities, which is why our Customer Charter includes a promise never to close a branch where we are the last branch in town.’ What a shame we never had an RBS Branch in our village.

One good thing to come out of this, is to discover that we have an MP willing to fight shoulder to shoulder with us on a worthy cause. He has also been a generous supporter of Milford on Sea Food Week. I care little what party he is from, but do appreciate that he seems to be a good guy to have around.

Whilst it appears to me the battle to save our local banking branch is over, I am sure there are many people in the village who are rightly aggrieved at the way HSBC has treated them. I suspect the war is not over, as we will remember what has happened and should an opportunity arise to leave HSBC on mass I am sure many will. I wonder if the ‘HSBC grey suits’ have heard the phrase ‘what goes around, comes around’.

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