HSBC bank has told dozens of foreign missions in London that it will close their bank accounts, an official said Sunday, news that has sent diplomats across the capital scrambling to find a new place to put their money.
Bernard Silver, a former honorary consul who serves as president of the Consular Corps of London, said he’d been told by British officials that more than 40 embassies, consulates and high commissions had been affected.
“The majority of missions are finding it very difficult for other banks to accept them,” he said.
Silver declined to name any specific missions, but the Mail on Sunday newspaper said that the Papal Nunciature — the Vatican’s mission to London — was affected, as was the Papua New Guinea High Commission and the honorary consul from Benin.
Attempts to reach the Vatican’s mission, Benin’s honorary consul, and Papua New Guinea’s high commissioner were not immediately successful, but the news- paper cited an official at the latter as expressing shock at the move.
“We’ve been banking with HSBC for 22 years,” John Belavu was quoted as saying. “For them to throw us off in this way was a bombshell.”
HSBC spokesman Will McSheehy said Sunday that the move was taking part of a wider reassessment of its business started by chief executive Stuart Gulliver in 2011. As of May, the bank’s retrenchment strategy has seen 52 peripheral or underperforming units close and a loss of roughly 40,000 staff.