Wednesday 18 July 2012

The Return Of Butch And Sundance

In the past this blog has referred to “Shanghai Lil’s” as a satirical take on the local branch of HSBC.  Like other banks they are not as they used to be decades ago when banking was taken seriously and deposits were twenty per cent of assets held.

It hinted that compared to the past there was a slightly raffish, almost personal way they tried to flog you their financial products.  The charming young ladies and jolly young men are very different from the rather older, often grumpy and distant male clerks of the past.

One of my acquaintances however has other opinions about HSBC.  Once it took him three weeks to move his money from one account of his own to another as hurdle after hurdle was put in his way.  The assistants sighed sadly when they told him that this was necessary to avoid money laundering and other frauds.

What made matters worse was that the savings account he had held for a long while was earning a derisory 0.5%.  In the Marks and Spencer shop along the street he picked up a leaflet offering 3.5% for a similar savings scheme.  The small print told him that the account was based on HSBC.  The word “fraud” leapt to his mind.

It was not as though he was one of the flirts or easily bored of their customers, moving from bank to bank on a whim of a marginal rate of interest.  He had banked with HSBC and its predecessor Midland for over fifty years.  When a man like this looks askance at the service he gets it tells you a lot.

The trouble is looking for another.  Barclays?  Oh dear.  RBS? Oh dear oh dear.  LloydsHBOS?  Oh dear oh dear oh dear.  And so it goes on.  If he had a bit of money then perhaps Coutts, the posh end of RBS?  Not so fast on the trigger, Butch, this is a frame up.  Coutts is now effectively based in the Caymans catering for a certain class of people.

Amongst them may well be the famous financier once at the centre of Labour’s financial policy, Fred Goodwin.  A vintage ten bob note, now out of circulation, suggests that a certain very high placed Scottish person who is acutely sensitive about issues relating to his personal finances is another.

There are more distinguished persons associated with Coutts, quite a few celebrities and others with a longer connection.  Does one really want to have people like this standing in the same queue at the branch in The Strand?  HSBC have a presence in The Caymans, hence the picture of the Cayman Crocodile above.

HSBC, as we know, have fallen foul of American investigators.  They are the sort of person who likes to go into detail, wants to hear the explanations and wants another notch on the butt of successful prosecutions.  The particular question is large scale money laundering, notably from Mexico where the trade is associated with large scale homicide.

So what has been going on in London, accused of being the money laundering centre of the world, clearing house for a network of tax havens moving bad money from account to account at the speed of light, if not Higgs Boson?  We shall never know.  Too many are too close both to the government as well as the opposition.

Long ago, I was in the gallery at the Bow Street Stipendiary Magistrates Court where several of my acquaintances were due in the dock to be asked why they had trashed a number of clip joints in Soho.  This had caused distress to their owners and senior police officers on their payrolls. 

They did not appear as one of the punters who had been debagged was a Cabinet Minister and the charges were hastily dropped.  But one poor hapless soul, called up from the cells had been seen by a police officer to take tuppence (two old pennies) from a telephone box.  He was handed down a month in prison.

Perhaps he should have gone into banking instead.


  1. That's the problem with banks - are any of them any better than the pack? Outfits such as the dear old Co-op ought to be, but who knows? They seem to be more interested in the environment than banking.

  2. Noel Coward's "Bad Times are just around the corner..." still seems pertinent and is worth a read or a listen. Better to smile than despair, and I have smiled a lot thank you.
    Even further back is Stanley Holloway's "Al-bert and the Li-on". There's nothing new really. Sombody's always "got to be summonsed". No-one who is guilty will take the blame.