This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Bad HSBC Policy Raises Specter of Bank Run

Stocks in this article: HSBC

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The term "bank run" conjures up all kind of bogeyman images, and right now it's rearing its ugly head in the U.K.

That doesn't mean a bank run is imminent here in the U.S., but in the age of global digital media, what's happening in England has American bankers thinking the once unthinkable.

The story starts in London, where customers of HSBC complained last week they couldn't withdraw large sums of money from local bank branches without asking for what amounts to a "permission slip."

According to the British Broadcasting Co., customers were being told by bank staffers they could not withdraw more than 5,000 in British pounds (or $8,253 in U.S. dollars) without having a "good reason" for making the withdrawal.

HSBC admits the policy was in place, but has reversed course on making customers explain why they need to withdrawal the money:

"We ask our customers about the purpose of large cash withdrawals when they are unusual and out of keeping with the normal running of their account. Since last November, in some instances we may have also asked these customers to show us evidence of what the cash is required for.

The reason being we have an obligation to protect our customers, and to minimize the opportunity for financial crime. However, following feedback, we are immediately updating guidance to our customer facing staff to reiterate that it is not mandatory for customers to provide documentary evidence for large cash withdrawals, and on its own, failure to show evidence is not a reason to refuse a withdrawal. We are writing to apologize to any customer who has been given incorrect information and inconvenienced."

The BBC interviewed several HSBC customers who said they were denied large withdrawal amounts when the bank told them their reasons for the withdrawal did not pass muster with bank personnel.

HSBC customer Stephen Cotton told the BBC he went to a local bank branch to withdraw a large sum to repay a loan from his mother. HSBC bank staffers didn't buy his story, and rejected the request, Cotton said.

"When we presented them with the withdrawal slip, they declined to give us the money because we could not provide them with a satisfactory explanation for what the money was for," he said in comments to the BBC. "They wanted a letter from the person involved."

Cotton says he kept trying, but kept on being rejected.

"So I wrote out a few slips. I said, 'Can I have £5,000?' They said no. I said, 'Can I have £4,000?' They said no. And then I wrote one out for £3,000 and they said, 'OK, we'll give you that.'"

No doubt, stories like that, even if anecdotal, can give bank consumers on both sides of the Atlantic a bad case of the shakes in a skittish economy.

There's little evidence of bank runs, of even bank limits on withdrawals, in the U.S., although JP Morgan Chase was forced to explain certain limits on consumer accounts last year.

But the fact that such talk is now out in the open may give bank customers pause, leading them to at least start thinking about worst-case scenarios that might lead to big withdrawals. If enough bank customers start thinking those thoughts, that's where the seeds of a bank run are sown.

Select the service that is right for you!

Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!


DOW 17,686.25 +329.38 1.90%
S&P 500 2,050.44 +37.55 1.87%
NASDAQ 4,730.3260 +86.0140 1.85%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs