On the 12th November I got a letter from my home insurance company telling me that my insurance policy had been cancelled on the 23rd October! WTF I knew nothing about this.
The letter was dated the 5th November, it had taken a week to get to me, such is the speed of the post as we continue to live with the pandemic. Naturally I phoned them immediately, to find that I had missed a payment at the end of September. Again I knew nothing about this – although I certainly did know I was having trouble with my bank at that time, but more on that in a minute.
The very pleasant minion on the phone told me that they had written to me to tell me I had missed a payment – and I hadn’t seen the letter. I checked my emails. One from the 15th October directing me to their website, a generic marketing type email, so not personalised alerting me to a problem, just telling me that I could defer payments. And that was it, no other contact to see if there was a problem they could help with, just the chopper dropped on my head – without my knowledge. This is my home, my second biggest asset, how the heck would I cope if I had an accident/emergency/act of god (and in this crazy year it’s hard to say you can rule that out) without insurance to cover it?
I was mystified, but over the last five months I have had a lot of contact with my bank and all that marketing hype about being there to look after you is a load of BuLLS**T.
I have no qualms telling you who it is – or how they have behaved – HSBC (now short for Horrid Situation Borderline Conscience) have deferred all contact with the ‘needy’ (such as myself) to minions who have no authority to act on a case by case basis.
In June, after I had had no income for nearly three months, I put my flat on the market. I contacted the bank to arrange a small loan to cover six months which was about the time I thought it would take to sell the flat given the current climate. (Oh how wrong I was, who wants to live in London when the death toll is high and the weather is great??) So assuming that the bank would take the value of the flat (high) and the size of the loan (small) as being in their favour, I was dumbfounded when they said no.
Apparently if I had been wanting to get married, take a holiday or buy a car, they’d have been ‘happy’ to lend…. I applied to increase my overdraft facilities and they said no to that as well.
I now have tenants in the flat, but at the time I was part way through the contract with the estate agents for the sale and a minimum tenancy term was too long to bridge that income gap without jeopardising a potential sale. There were no AirBnB guests either – so no income. And I watched as my account balances dwindled.
At the end of September the crunch came and HSBC started to reverse my direct debits. They would text me and essentially bully me into bringing my account balance within the overdraft limit. But with what? I had no income. They had known since June that I had been adversely impacted by the pandemic and I had told them I needed help. I had asked for Help. HELP. HELP, DAMN YOU.
I’ve been a customer with HSBC since 1988, since before they became HSBC. I’ve paid them thousands of pounds in fees over the years because I’m constantly in overdraft. But I’ve never had a problem with that because I always felt they had my back. When I was first separated, they were really supportive – and that mattered because I was scared and uncertain of the future. So I rewarded that by putting the proceeds of my house sale in 2016 into an account with them, which they had access to for nine months in its entirety. I’ve put all my rental income through my HSBC accounts as well. They’ve had nearly a £1M of my money in the last five years – it’s quite beside the point that because of the pandemic I now have none.
Where the F**cK is their loyalty to me?
The banks have not changed their lending criteria. In the middle of a pandemic they don’t have any interest in small investors like me – even though we are the ones who pay the fees – premium account holders pay no fees – so those who can afford to pay don’t and those who can’t are thrown to the wolves. And in this topsy-turvy world it is very difficult to say now who is able to pay and who isn’t.
So while I was sorting out putting tenants in my flat in London, HSBC were cutting off my source of finance, they froze my linked credit card (so I couldn’t even pay for groceries or fuel) and turned away my insurance policies. They sent me text alerts but these were automatically generated, I couldn’t tell who they were reversing payment for – and they already knew I couldn’t resolve this, yet emblazoned on their website was ‘ASK us about a TEMPORARY extension to YOUR overdraft.’ I wasn’t even offered it.
If it weren’t for some very dear friends, my 55th birthday and a proactive financial advisor, I would have gone under. I mean emotionally as well as financially drowning, literally nowhere to turn. Luckily because I was turning 55 I could access my pension fund. My financial advisor was brilliant (Zest Financial Consultants) the money to clear this ‘debt’ was to be transferred after my birthday in mid October. And then good old money laundering protocol raised its head. Money coming from an account already in my name, being transferred to an account in the same organisation, also in my name, was frozen. WTF? I mean what the actual?
In a world that has had change forced upon it, where are the changes to the systems that support those of us who live in it? The platitudes and marketing campaigns don’t protect people who have lost everything. The organisations we depend on are not interested in the individual. I have assets to sell which means I am a lot better off than millions of others, but with no income it is a very steep slope, even with assets, because you can no longer afford to keep them – and I can see exactly how people end up on the street. The relentless bullying of HSBC has been nightmarish because as we all know this situation hasn’t been caused by the individual. This is global and those minions who said no were sitting in their ivory towers (with jobs, yes I know it must be so terribly stressful saying no all the time) and no idea of what life is like in the UK right now, because I hate to say it none of the lending team I spoke to were in the UK. I thought a global bank would understand what it meant to live in a world of diversity and change but clearly in this situation it just makes it easier for them to ignore what is happening on foreign shores.
As for the insurance company, I haven’t yet had my complaint heard so I’m reluctant to dish the dirt, but what I would say is that if a customer has had an account with you for nine years and has transferred you from home to home during that time – and never missed a payment – then suddenly in the middle of a pandemic this happens, perhaps checking that things are ok as soon as problems arise might be helpful. That first letter the minion mentioned was dated the 9th October – not the day after the missed payment. And allowing for the week that things are taking to arrive, it actually arrived closer to the date when the account was cancelled – but I was given no warning of that. Writing on the 5th November about something that happened on the 23rd October is inexcusable. We are in the middle of a pandemic. If you want me to know something – and it’s urgent – why choose the least efficient means of communication? Lessons to be learned? This is not difficult, it costs less to email or text and I’d have known that there were problems. Pretty well immediately.