HSBC employees in the UK, like their counterparts in many other parts of the world, are working in new ways to support individuals, businesses and communities during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today I spoke on the phone to a 70-year-old lady who had received a letter from her doctor telling her to stay in for the next 12 weeks,” says Audrey Stevenson, a Service and Sales Manager at HSBC UK’s branch in Honiton, Devon.
“She worries about her balance as money is tight. But we had a really good chat, and I suggested some practical tips on how she can keep track of her money until she can next visit a branch.”
Audrey’s call was among tens of thousands handled by HSBC UK over the past few weeks. The bank is receiving significantly higher volumes of queries, both online and over the phone.
Some customers require extra support during the UK’s coronavirus lockdown. People over the age of 70, for example, are being encouraged to stay at home, and some have not used telephone or internet banking before.
Kieran Harvey, a Premier Relationship Officer in Bristol, agrees that talking to potentially vulnerable customers can make a real difference.
“I got a message from an older customer asking me to help her set up online banking for the first time,” he says.
“I called her right away. Together we got it done. She now doesn’t have to risk going outside with her equally vulnerable husband to manage their finances.”
To meet the increased demand for this type of support, HSBC UK is now inviting volunteers from other parts of the bank to get trained up to handle customer calls during this busy period.
Working with businesses
The UK’s lockdown is also having a significant impact on businesses of all sizes around the country.
John Caldwell, a Mid-Market Relationship Director for Commercial Banking based in Aberdeen, says this is the most challenging time he can remember since the financial crash of 2008 – but he and his colleagues are doing all they can to help clients through it.
“I’m 30 years in the job, so I’m drawing on all that experience now, staying on the phone with my clients, talking to them,” he says. “The most important thing is to not bury your head in the sand.”
Measures taken by HSBC UK to support business customers include:
Setting aside GBP8 billion to help companies affected by COVID-19
Waiving its GBP100 arrangement fee for Small Business Loans
Offering repayment holidays and pre-approved 60-day extensions on trade loans
The bank is also helping customers access the UK government-owned British Business Bank’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which has been designed to help smaller businesses cope with the challenges posed by COVID-19.
The tough external environment makes it more important than ever for teams across the bank to keep in touch with customers, according to John.
“This is the time to talk,” he says. “The more you talk to your clients, the more you understand what they need.”
HSBC announces COVID-19 donation fund
We are donating USD25 million to support the international response to the coronavirus.
Answering the call
Other HSBC employees in the UK are volunteering their expertise in local and national projects to help the wider community.
They include Edward Hodge, a Senior Compliance Manager for HSBC Global Asset Management, who serves part-time as a sergeant in the British Army Medical Services Reserves.
He was busy working when a call came in, urgently requesting his help. His unit had been asked to help build a new temporary hospital for coronavirus patients in a London conference centre, not far from HSBC’s global headquarters.
“My manager is supportive of what I do, and I went up straight away,” says Edward.
His role was to help coordinate the military’s contribution to the National Health Service’s (NHS) Nightingale project, bringing to bear his experience of running field hospitals.
The temporary hospital has the capacity to house more than 4,000 intensive care beds, which would make it one of the largest medical facilities in the UK.
“I feel very proud of being a part of it,” Edward adds. “But the majority of the people in my reserves unit are NHS front-line staff. My contribution has been minor compared with what they’re going through. I feel in awe of them.”
In addition to supporting employees who wish to volunteer, HSBC UK has donated GBP1 million to the National Emergencies Trust and British Red Cross Coronavirus Appeal. The donation is part of the USD25 million that HSBC is contributing globally to help people affected by COVID-19.