18 July 2017

HSBC is educating its employees about the role that banks can play in preventing human trafficking.

It has produced a new staff training video to explain the scale of the challenge. In it, Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol, the European law enforcement agency, says: “[Human trafficking] is one of the biggest and fastest-growing criminal problems. Worldwide, we have 21 million estimated victims… these people are being subjected to the worst forms of abuse, all in the name of making a quick buck.”

Victims of human trafficking pay criminals to smuggle them across international borders in the hope of starting a new life. In reality, however, they are forced to work in unsafe or inhumane conditions. They are rarely paid and may be assaulted, imprisoned and, in effect, enslaved.

Accuracy versus truth

Could you tell the difference between an accurate document and a truthful one? Noel Quinn, Chief Executive, Global Commercial Banking, HSBC, meets a reformed criminal to find out about techniques used by fraudsters to mislead banks and investors. The video of their meeting is part of a series designed to educate HSBC employees about the risks of financial crime. Watch the video on the Financial crime risk: Expertise page .

The video includes an interview with a former victim of human trafficking. Adam was brought into the UK, beaten and forced to work. A criminal gang opened a bank account in his name and used it to make a fraudulent loan application, as well as to steal Adam’s wages.

When opening bank accounts for Adam and other victims, the criminal kept tight hold of their identity cards and passports. “The trafficker interpreted for us,” says Adam, “but he was really there to control what we did.”

The video is one of a series produced by HSBC to educate employees about the human impact of financial crime. The bank wants to play a leading role in the fight against abuse of the financial system.

Frontline employees provide the first line of defence against financial crime, and HSBC is equipping them to spot suspicious behaviour and speak up when something does not look right. The bank delivered more than 3.1 million hours of targeted training on financial crime in 2016.

Sharing information and working in partnership with law enforcement is crucial to tackling human trafficking. The bank is also one of a number of financial institutions which have worked with the Thomson Reuters Foundation as part of the European Bankers Alliance to produce a practical guide for banks on tackling human trafficking. Designed especially for European financial institutions, the guide includes case studies and examples of suspicious financial patterns that can be warning signs of criminal behaviour. Read the full press release on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website (opens in new window) .

Francesca McDonagh, who until recently was Head of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, UK and Europe, HSBC says: “We can play an important part in tackling this serious issue. We need to look harder than ever at who our customers really are… It’s not easy, but by using our existing procedures, trusting our instincts and applying common sense, I believe we can make a difference.”