Dear HSBC, it’s not me, it’s you

The things you forget about your younger self as you get older. I thought patchwork trousers made me look cool and edgy (they did not). I thought my face would change with every birthday (actually it kind of is, but not for the better). I was also painfully, painfully bad at breakups.

One breakup I fell asleep and hoped they’d go away. They didn’t. It was awful.

I hate confrontation. I hate having to complain about things directly to the person who has frustrated me. I like arguing my point but only if I’m prepared.

I’m going to have to break up with my bank. I haven’t decided whether it’s going to be a full, cut-all-ties-never-speak-again break-up yet. But from this month I won’t be using them for business.

Here’s why. I don’t think HSBC care about sole traders. I know they care about big business. I’m pretty sure they care about people with a lot of money to move between accounts. But I don’t think they care about we one-man bands. Or they certainly have a funny way of showing it.

This is what happened this morning. I had a 9am meeting with a business advisor because charges are starting on my account. As a sole trader I don’t HAVE to have a business account by law but it makes things easier. But since the only thing I’ve had from HSBC Business since I set up an account is a few e-newsletters and a boom in charges I figured I should ask them why and what I might hope to get from the extra charges.

Turns out that £100+ a year will make me feel pretty darn small.

I was patronised, told in no uncertain terms that every bank would charge you eventually and that I was naive to think otherwise. When I questioned why a sole trader should have to pay for a bank service when they got no support I received a shrug. Yes, OK, I brought up the fact that the financial climate was tough for the self-employed and that it was the financial sector that started the crisis and shouldn’t they try to be a little more flexible? I was tutted at and the blame was pushed onto Lehman’s and Libor. I’m only a girl, HSBC, but even I know it was a little more complicated than that. When I asked the advisor if he understood how stressful and difficult it was running your own business I was duly informed that he runs six of his own (how he finds time to fit in HSBC work I have no idea, I’m exhausted running one business!).

More and more people are becoming self-employed. At the beginning of this year the numbers suggest an extra 300,000 signed up after 2008.  Whatever every individuals reasoning for it it’s still pretty scary. You need good advice and you need people around you you can trust. You don’t want to throw money away and you want to get the best support you can.

If HSBC really want to be the business bank then perhaps they should spend a little bit more time and effort figuring out how they can fine tune their services to suit sole traders. We’re not the same as SMEs. There should be an element of flexibility. At the very least we should be offered some kind of ongoing advice and support (the business details HSBC had for me were the same projections I made before I set-up, they hadn’t bothered to ask for an update).

I made a complaint and I spoke to one of the nicest people in the world at HSBC on the phone. But my fear is that if they don’t start tailoring their business support to we self-employed then it isn’t just that we’ll go elsewhere; it’s that we might be put off setting up on our own in the first place.

Business isn’t just about being big. Sometimes it’s really small. If HSBC – and they’re not the only one, a rudimentary search will show you a lot of the major banks just seem to not “get” sole traders” – think we’re OK to be patronised and treated like second class business citizens then I don’t know about you but I’m taking my money somewhere else.



  1. Any update on this? Where did you take your money?

    1. In the end Lloyds – although it was a hideous experience all round!

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