HSBC move could be thin end of the wedge

LONDON Thu Apr 12, 2007 12:08pm BST

Britain's largest bank is closing the doors of one of its branches -- but only to poorer customers. The HSBC in the well-heeled area of Canford Cliffs, near Poole in Dorset, will only offer cashier services to richer clients from June 11. Anyone else will have to make do with cash machines. REUTERS/Vismedia

Britain's largest bank is closing the doors of one of its branches -- but only to poorer customers. The HSBC in the well-heeled area of Canford Cliffs, near Poole in Dorset, will only offer cashier services to richer clients from June 11. Anyone else will have to make do with cash machines.

Credit: Reuters/Vismedia

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LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC's move to offer cashier services at one branch to wealthier clients only may be the thin end of the wedge, one analyst believes.

Kevin Mountford, head of savings and current accounts at price comparison service moneysupermarket.com, thinks other banks will follow suit.

"These decisions are not as much about generic fees coming into play, but instead are a way of segmenting and driving out less profitable customers," he said.

"HSBC has given the green light to other high street providers to look at splitting their customers into first class and cattle class -- and perhaps only to offer them a service matched to their profitability."

HSBC in the well-heeled area of Canford Cliffs, near Poole in Dorset, is only offering cashier services to richer clients from June 11. Anyone else will have to make do with cash machines.

The branch lies close to the Sandbanks area overlooking Poole Harbour which boasts some of the most expensive property prices in Britain outside London.

To be eligible for face-to-face banking services at the branch, customers will have to fall into its "premier" category, which means they will have to have savings of at least 50,000 pounds or a 200,000 pound mortgage.

Alternately, they must have a 100,000 pound mortgage plus a salary of 75,000 pounds-plus.

HSBC -- which promotes itself as "the world's local bank" -- said all customers would still be able to deposit cash, cheques and coins at "express" terminals within the branch and withdraw cash.

But those who do not qualify for premier status will have to pay a fee of 19.95 pounds per month to use cashier services -- such as opening a current account or applying for a mortgage.

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