Business | Banking

HSBC bans Syrian, Sudanese and Iranian nationals

Bank has decided to discontinue accounts of customers from countries that are subject to significant EU sanctions

  • By Cleofe Maceda, Senior Reporter
  • Published: 18:57 February 17, 2013
  • Gulf News

Dubai: HSBC is closing the accounts of Middle Eastern customers not only from Syria, but also from Sudan, Iran and other countries effective March 20, Gulf News learned on Sunday.

The global banking giant confirmed that it is discontinuing the accounts of customers from countries that are subject to significant sanctions from the European Union, United States or both. The countries are selected based on an “internal risk assessment”.

An HSBC spokesperson, however, clarified that the ban is not across the board. HSBC refused to disclose the full list of countries for which the accounts will be closed, but it confirmed the list does not include any country in which HSBC operates a branch network.

Exempted from the ban are customers who have relationship managers. These clients are classified as either “Advance” or “Premier” and are required to maintain a minimum balance of Dh100,000 and Dh350,000 respectively.

“This is not a blanket ban of all customers from certain sanctioned countries. As long as customers with connections to sanctioned countries satisfy our due diligence requirements for Premier or Advance, then we will continue to bank with them,” an HSBC spokesperson told Gulf News.

Other international banks in the UAE, however, assured they don’t have any immediate plans to impose a similar ban. Standard Chartered said they are not cutting off ties with clients on the basis of their passport.

Revenues and profits

“Standard Chartered does not severe relationships with clients based on their nationality and we adhere to the highest standards of compliance to local and international regulations. [The bank] is focused on Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and 90 per cent of our profits and revenues are generated from these markets,” a spokesperson said.

HSBC started sending out letters to its customers this month, informing them of the bank’s decision and giving them until March 20 to transfer their cash balances to an alternative bank.

“In the event you do not make such arrangements by March 20, 2013, we will arrange for a cheque for any available credit balance/s in your account/s to be sent to the address we have on record for you,” the bank said in its letter.

When asked what prompted the decision, HSBC said they are committed to “adopt the highest compliance standards across the Group. As a result, we must apply enhanced oversight on any customer with connections to sanctioned countries.”

“Where we are unable to maintain sufficiently detailed information about such a customer through a relationship-managed account, we have to discontinue that relationship.”

The bank told affected customers that any outstanding amounts on their HSBC credit card are now due and payable. They have to settle any outstanding amounts by March 20. “Your existing HSBC credit card/s and any supplemental cards will be deactivated on 20 March 2013. You are requested to return/destroy any such cards by [deadline],” said the bank in the letter.

Those who have an HSBC or personal loan, which takes, say, five years to pay, are given the option to settle the balance in full or continue to repay the balance via monthly instalments. “Any penalty/charges due to early closure will be waived off if a customer chooses to settle the full outstanding amount,” the spokesperson said. 

Comments (19)

  1. Added 18:11 February 18, 2013

    Some reason will be there, that's why i think.

    Dileep.K.S, Dubai ,, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 17:20 February 18, 2013

    First they cancelled Amanah banking facility and now they are turning racist towards certain nationalities. I will close my account with immediate effect and you will ultimately lose all your key customers.

    Syed Ibrahim, Tamil Nadu, India

  3. Added 16:48 February 18, 2013

    Authorities should say NO to those banks who says NO to customers. Shame on you HSBC

    Shameer, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 16:07 February 18, 2013

    I think it is shameful what HSBC is doing, in that disenfranchising the low income from the high income customer’s. God forbids if they do something that will really make them lose money. I was in agreement with what they were doing when I first read this report in belief it was a blanket decision yes it would affect the low income earners but it sounded like it was for the greater good but as I continued I came to realized that the "elite" customers will be allowed to do business as usual. these sanctions placed on those countries are there so that there governments have a hard time moving its money around, now when you have an account with more than a 100,000 in it could be construed as suspicious but does the bank close their accounts no because those account make money on that as for the common man who has left his mother country to make a better life and escape its oppression is now getting it from the bank. Well all I have to say to HSBC is shame on you and that you have lost a potential customer with this move.

    salman, abu dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  5. Added 15:55 February 18, 2013

    It's fine HSBC, farewell and I'm moving to Barclays

    Tareq, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  6. Added 15:45 February 18, 2013

    Such a ban on a whole nationality is unethical.

    Rodi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

  7. Added 14:42 February 18, 2013

    First I'm glad that I don't have an account with This bank , However I have to say this such irrational decision , and HSBC is the loser since he is not only losing customers from the mention countries but also he is raising doubts for other customers from different countries if they should continue with the bank with such mentality treating people base on nationality instead of their personal and financial commitment to the bank, what a shame !

    Noor, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  8. Added 14:35 February 18, 2013

    I once used to bank with HSBC and closed my account with them several years back. As a Sudanese national, I'm glad I no longer bank with them. No, HSBC, you don't bank with your customers, your customers bank with YOU. The levels of arrogance displayed by this bank knows no bounds. Someone please explain to me how the accounts that don't actually have large amounts of cash in them are "suspects" while those that qualify for their RM status become acceptable?

    MZ, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  9. Added 13:46 February 18, 2013

    This is an outragious hypocracy....Not only the people from these country are plagued by war and political unrest but we have to force them to pay their credit cards all of a sudden...UNLESS they are rich...we will contine to bank with them... I am not part of the EU ban but I will certainly close my bank account after reading such hypocracy.

    Ahmed, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  10. Added 13:27 February 18, 2013

    How can a bank seve accounts based on nationality. It just shows you the world we live in now. Definte "sign of the times" example here. Whoever thinks banks are "independent" entities is dellusional. Disgusting.

    Musa, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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