A BANK has been branded "disrespectful" after asking a constituent to resend a Welsh query in English.

Llŷr Gruffydd, who represents North Wales in the Senedd, said the message is “yet another example of the banking giant’s complete and utter disregard for Welsh speakers”.

The Plaid Cymru politician was contacted by the angry constituent from Ruthin, who was told by a member of HSBC’s customer care team that they were “unable to read” their Welsh language message.

It is understood the constituent sent an email to HSBC in Welsh. However, confusion did arise on whether the email was in fact an e-message as the terms are used interchangeably in the reply from the bank. 

The message from HSBC to the constituent said: “Thank you for your recent e-message. You have sent your e-message to a HSBC website in the UK. Regrettably, I am unable to read your email.

“Hence, I request you to please resend your message in English so that I can look into your matter.

“I regret, I am unable to assist you with regards to any account specific enquiry via this messaging service.

“Your e-mail has been received by HSBC in the UK, where we may only respond to feedback and general banking queries relating to HSBC UK products and services.”

Mr Gruffydd said: “It is completely unacceptable that y constituent was asked to resend their Welsh language query in English.

“There is understandably a huge amount of anger and frustration in Wales with HSBC’s attitude towards the Welsh language."

A spokesperson from HSBC said: "We remain committed to ongoing support for our Welsh language customers over the phone, in person with Welsh speakers in half our branches in Wales, and with correspondence written in Welsh. We are, however, only able to converse in English on our Live Chat service and through secure e-message.

"As we have not been provided with the specific details of this customer we have not been able to look into whether this was through our Live Chat service, secure e-message or another channel. We’d be keen to make contact with the customer to discuss the matter and understand more about what has happened.”

HSBC has also been slammed by the Mr Gruffydd over the changes it is making to its Welsh-speaking customer contact line.

From today (January, Monday 15), calls into the Welsh-speaking line will be routed to the main contact centre. All customers who use the Welsh Speaking Line also speak English, and a call-back in Welsh can be arranged "if that is the customer’s preference."

HSBC say that on average, the Welsh Service Line receives less than two dozen calls a day, compared to over 18,000 calls a day to English speaking lines.

As a result of the low volume of calls, Welsh-speaking agents undertake banking calls in English within the main UK contact centre. A total of six per cent of calls to the Welsh language line are answered by a Welsh Agent.

Customers can undertake "simple" banking queries only on the Welsh Service Line such a checking balances and making payments, whilst more complex requests such as Power of Attorney, bereavement, fraud etc are already required to be transferred to an English-speaking line to process.


HSBC say other Welsh services offered will remain in place including Welsh speaking colleagues being based in half of Welsh branches, responding to Welsh customer correspondence in Welsh, and some of branches in Wales offering a "full translation" service.

Mr Gruffydd said: "HSBC like’s to describe itself as the world’s local bank. Well it is abundantly clear that this is not the case in Wales as it abandons Welsh speakers and abandons our high streets by shutting down branches.

“When customer’s email HSBC using the Welsh language they should at the very least receive a response in Welsh.

“I also reiterate my call for HSBC to reverse its decision to close it’s Welsh language phone line.

“It should be remembered that many customers use HSBC because of its Welsh language phone service, and it is without question true to say that the bank has not done enough to promote it.

“It is another big blow to their customers in Wales especially their older customers, and those who don't have access to digital technology.

“The bank's pledge to 'arrange a call back in Welsh, within three working days' is astonishingly disrespectful to Welsh speakers. It is also insensitive to the financial pressures some people will face."

A HSBC UK spokesperson said: “We remain committed to supporting our Welsh language customers, but due to the extremely low level of calls into our dedicated Welsh-speaking line - fewer than two dozen calls a day on average - we need to make changes. If a customer does want to speak with a Welsh speaker, that still can be arranged.

"We will also continue to have Welsh speaking colleagues in half our Welsh branches and will continue to respond to customer correspondence in Welsh.”