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ED’S BLOG: Profits of boom – but can you can bank on them?

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There were no real surprises when HSBC announced its £6.7bn half-yearly gain today. Despite problems in America, and the bank’s profits taking a 43% dive there, a Porsche-like performance in Asia and strong returns on investment banking saw the cash roll in like a mighty wave, with senior boardroom members and executives gleefully riding the silver surf onto a golden beach piled high with bonuses.

But what do these weighty matters matter to the average HSBC current account holder who may have issues with bank charges in Barnet, for example? Rachel Bell, an average HSBC current account holder who has issues with bank charges in Barnet, supplied an answer: “Absolutely nothing,” she declared.

“I mean nothing to the world of high finance but by the same token the world of high finance means nothing to me,” she continued. “All I know is that HSBC took money off me under the pretext of bank charges and I want it back.

“It may be only £37.54 in dispute, but that means as much to me as that £6.97bn profit means to the bigwigs.”

Right, and you have to multiply Rachel’s £37.54 quite a few times to arrive at the £116m HSBC has allocated for refunding misapplied charges.

“This is an industry-wide issue and the size of the refunds that we have made demonstrate our commitment to treating our customers fairly and transparently,” opined a spokesperson in what should be a deserving finalist in the Most Absurd Statement of the Year Awards (think about it).

The other banks should be unveiling their figures soon, so expect more billions, and a corresponding biliousness on the part of people to whom those billions just don’t matter, any day now.




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