HSBC’s shift to online services welcomed by digital services minister

Digital services parliamentary secretary Silvio Schembri says ‘proactive steps’ compliment government’s policy in digital sector but urges HSBC to consult with communities affected by branch closures

Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services Silvio Schembri
Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services Silvio Schembri

News of the closure of eight HSBC’s branches across Malta will have rattled regular users of mortar-and-bricks banking, but one government minister has welcomed the bank’s shift to more online services.

The parliamentary secretary for financial services and digital economy Silvio Schembri has said he “welcomed HSBC’s proactive steps” to push forward its online facility, as part of the bank’s plan to accommodate new trends in financial services and banking.

However, he also urged the bank to consult with the communities affected by the branch closures and ensure that the opening of basic bank accounts be made easier.

“The Parliamentary Secretariat for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation takes note of the series of strategic actions by HSBC Bank as part of its plans to prepare the bank for the future in view of new trends and the changing landscape of financial services.

“[I] welcome the pro-active stance in embracing and adapting to new trends within the digital scenario, which complement the government’s own digital policy,” Schembri said.

“As a government we take note of the changes HSBC Bank Malta plc will be going through as part of its restructuring programme and understands that business is shifting online. One hopes that there will be consultation with the communities that will be affected at first hand by the closing of the branches and augurs that the opening of basic bank accounts will be expedited and made easier.”

HSBC Malta today announced it will close its Balzan branch to merge it with its Qormi ‘flagship’ branch in a move designed to shift more retail banking services online. 

The closure, slated for 2020, will make its principal Qormi office HSBC’s largest branch in the country, delivering “the best of the bank’s services” with improved access such as parking. 

The branches in Birzebbuga, Cospicua, Fgura, Hamrun, Marsascala, St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay will also close by the end of 2019. The bank will maintain self-service ATM and deposit machines in any locality where a branch will close.  

The bank also announced “subject to MUBE agreement, a reduction in roles within the organisation on a voluntary basis”. 

HSBC Malta CEO Andrew Beane said the bank was responding to the way customers were banking. “We are delivering enhanced digital solutions, a modernised branch network with new wealth management centres, and more flexible access to a range of self-service solutions.  With the closure of some branches, this will all be delivered through a more cost-effective operating model which will help us mitigate the long-term impact of negative interest rates on the bank’s profitability in Malta.”

While the bank said branch banking will continue to be a critical part to HSBC Malta’s service, “what branches do for their customers and how and when they do it is changing.”

HSBC said the closures reflect more investment in digital capabilities for customers. Research conducted by HSBC Group globally shows that 80% of banking transactions are completed digitally, with 45% on mobile devices. 

Similarly, data gathered by HSBC Malta indicates that Maltese customers’ use of traditional banking services is reducing by more than 10% per annum while mobile usage is increasing 65% each year. 

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