PN reacts to HSBC branch closures: ‘banking hitting news for the wrong reasons’

HSBC cost-cutting measures: PN says government has destroyed banking’s foundations

The Nationalist Party has reacted to HSBC Malta’s closure of eight bank branches by accusing the Maltese government of “destroying the foundations of the banking sector”.

HSBC will close its Balzan branch in 2020 to merge it with its Qormi ‘flagship’ branch in a move designed to shift more retail banking services online. The branches in Birzebbuga, Cospicua, Fgura, Hamrun, Marsascala, St Julian’s and St Paul’s Bay will 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”.

[WATCH] HSBC to shut down eight branches across Malta as ‘local bank’ pushes online services

But the PN made no mention of the way the branch closures and voluntary redundancy scheme will be affecting customers or workers.

“The banking sector in Malta is hitting the news for all the wrong reasons: branch closures, remote gaming account closures, suspension of licenses, closure of banks because of money laundering irregularities and loss of correspondent banking,” MPs Mario de Marco and Kristy Debono said.

“Something is clearly very wrong on the banking front. Prime Minister Joseph Muscat inherited a flourishing financial services sector, replete with top professionals, an all-encompassing legal regime, a strong regulatory arm and an excellent reputation. Sadly, his government, through its actions and inactions, destroyed the very foundations of this sector.

“The people meant to change things for the better are actually making things worse. The MFSA is dishing out golden handshakes termed illegal by one of its own governors. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Secretary responsible for Financial Services, Silvio Schembri, ‘forgets’ to declare all his income in the ministerial declaration of assets.”

The two MPs said Malta’s reputation as a financial services centre of excellence is being put into question. “The government cannot win the battle to restore our country’s reputation because the government itself is implicated in cases which harmed our country.”

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