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Monday, January 15

An Open Letter To HSBC

I'm truly sick of the antiquated services offered by HSBC. They recently reskinned their online banking experience and attempting to use it has cemented how truly out of touch the organisation is with the modern information age.

Here's a letter to them which I can't send by email as they don't provide email support, having opted for "Live Chat" or Twitter. While you might applaud such a modern idiom for support, I can't help but think that it's probably motivated by cost-saving, rather than forward thinking.

Dear HSBC,

I've had the misfortune to be a customer of yours for the last five or so years. Given that you still own much of my house, and your mortgage rates aren't too extortionate, I don't see that I can escape this relationship anytime soon.

While nothing has gone wrong with any of my accounts or security, nothing you have provided can be described as excellent in any way. There were a few moments when one of your live chat representatives explained how I could pay a lump sum off my mortgage, which was helpful. Apart from that, banking with you has been a massive inconvenience.

I've complained about this before, but let's start gently with your insistence that I should pay money in at a branch using your automated machines. I'm all for automation. Especially when you try to prevent me from seeing a cashier - hiding them in hard to reach corners of some of your branches. The thing is I'm expected to fill in a form to pay money in via a machine. Then input that same data into the machine. A form!? In 2018! If your automated machine just a front for a 1970s paying in slip?

That would be fine, but the machines tend to be very fussy about paper that may one have slightly bent, rejecting attempts to use them.

My solution to this these days is to go across the road to the Lloyds branch where I still have a minor account, paying in the money via their machine which just works and doesn't require me to use a pen and then transferring the money across to my HSBC account if I need to.

Look what you made me do!

That's just my warm-up complaint. The real problem is with your online banking. I don't know where you got usability experts from, but you need to replace them. Allow me to describe the annoyance you put me through last night while I tried to pull some figures together for a tax return.

In order to calculate the expenses that are allowable for tax, I need to read historic transactions from 18 months ago. I can't search for them by name as the search is limited to 12 months. To read transactions for certain dates I need to work out which statement they would be on. This involves setting the statement year, looking through the list of statement documents, which are dated for the last day of the statement, trying to augur which documents I've read so far, and which one covers the right date range, clicking into it to review transactions and then, when done, clicking on a button to return to the list of statements which adds a few seconds of delay as the whole user-interface re-loads.

That "Loading..." box is the thing which destroys my concentration, makes me lose my place, makes it harder to remember which statement I now need to drill into and slows down an already clunky workflow. Did I mention that the choice of on-screen layout, which seems optimised for giant square screens that don't exist, reducing the likelihood that anything I want to see is on the screen without scrolling?

I should point out that I work in IT, so I'm immediately aware of some of the reasons this is the way it is. Your underlying data model involves documents, not keeping the transactions kicking around, hence the date limited search and the document-centric browsing of historic data.

I can't believe, however, that in a world where people can scroll comfortably through terrabytes of news feed data on the likes of Twitter or Facebook, that a bank can't provide me with a timeline of every transaction that's ever occurred on my account in a way that's seemlessly usable. Any excuse you might come up with about what's technically possible is eclipsed by the fact that there are countless examples of ease of use online proving you wrong.

Talking of ease of use, it's time that you got rid of that annoying secure key. The idea may justify some security expert's sense of self-worth, but you can't honestly expect your customers to either carry around a losable flimsy bit of plastic, or wait until they're near it to conduct their transaction. Yes, I know you can do a lot without it, but not everything. It honestly beats me why on earth you think that my mobile phone, with more compute power than a moon launch, and dedicated encryption hardware, is less secure than your silly little random number generator.

To conclude I'm trapped in this abusive relationship with your inadequate information technologists. To move bank would be problematic, to remain leaves me banging my head against the desk in despair.

Yours, a disgruntled customer.

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