HOLMSEY: Where’s the banker?

Whatever happened to Kevin; why did they get rid of him?

When I opened my first business account at the Midland Bank (now HSBC), Kev O’Connor was the assistant manager. A chirpy chappie, he gave me a £3,000 overdraft, setting me on the path to success. Thirty-three years and perhaps £100 million-worth of transactions later, I want to tell him I’ve had enough, that I’m finished with his couldn’t care less bank and I’m taking my overdraft elsewhere!

Twenty days ago, while ‘logged on’ to internet banking, I used that ‘live chat’ text box at the bottom of the screen. You’re supposed to type in your query and the person or algorithm at the other end answers – or not as the case may be. In my case, they decided the question itself indicated a ‘security breach’ and suspended our internet banking.

Well, I do know these things happen, I may even have been reassured that they were alert to fraudsters, but my question, “Can I accept a payment from overseas?” seemed to have two things going for it. Number one, the money was coming, not going, and number two, I’d already passed their strict security checks before asking the question.

I tried telephoning, but the line to their Indian call centre is dreadful and the person at the other end speaks English as a second language. Understanding anything said is challenging and, just to get that far, requires endless patience.

While you’re waiting, up to an hour, an infuriating looped voice repeatedly assures you “Your call is important to us.” NO IT IS NOT IMPORTANT TO YOU; if it were, you would employ more people to answer the b***** telephone.

That first day, three times I tried calling them, and three times they cut me off. Naively, I decided going into a branch might be quicker; I assumed they would help me. On arrival at HSBC Newport, the welcoming person (do banks actually employ cashiers anymore?) said, “Hello David.” Now that really lifted my spirits; it was a promising start. I’d taken my passport, and my driving licence too, so I had hope that help was at hand; they knew who I was! After a short wait, they helped me complete some forms, which they placed in an envelope addressed to themselves, asking me to pop them in the post box opposite.

I left the bank shaking my head with the words, “It could take up to 10 days,” ringing in my ears. Ten days later, nothing at all had happened, so I called again. This time, they said, “We meant 10 working days”; crestfallen, I waited, again. On the 10th working day, I got an email, which said, “You’ll get a letter, in 10 days.” Yes, that’s four work weeks for them to re-enable my internet banking. Enraged, I tried going into several mainland branches.

Bravely, I tried calling them again. Incredibly, I addressed the people answering as ‘Sir’, when really, I wanted to call them b******s! Nothing worked, and so for 20 days I had no internet banking. Not paying anyone did mean my bank balance grew wonderfully, although I could have posted cheques I suppose, sent via carrier pigeon.

Like all banks, HSBC has closed many of its branches, but worse, the poor souls working in what’s left of the network no longer have the ability to solve problems; Kevin was consigned to history years ago. While I waited in Newport branch, a sweet old man shuffled in, optimistically hoping to transfer money to his daughter; they told him he’d have to wait an hour for the privilege.

Wherever he is now, Kevin, would be unimpressed with what became of his former employer. We all are!