Brexit, Barclays & HSBC Banks

Earlier this year, I received a letter telling me of another wonderful ‘benefit’ of Brexit. The letter came from the headquarters of Barclays Bank, with whom I have banked for over forty-seven years, and told me that in a few months time, I needed to close my account or otherwise, they would do it for me at the end of August 2022.

The actual explanation was that, ‘We’re applying limitations to the banking services we provide to customers with an address in the European Economic Area (EEA). We’re sorry to say this means we need you to close your account’. This was Barclays polite way of saying that, now the UK was no longer a member of the EU, they were not prepared to go to the expense and trouble of setting up a legal entity in each separate country as they are required to do because of Brexit.

Whilst I have lived in the Czech Republic for nearly fourteen years and have Czech bank account, I have also always maintained my Barclays Sterling account. Since retirement over five years ago, I have had my Czech and UK state pensions paid into my Czech account and my Church of England pension paid into my UK Barclays account. I can normally live comfortably on my two state pensions and allow my Church of England pension to accumulate to cover the cost of travel outside of the Czech Republic and to make gifts to my children and grandchildren.

Several people upon hearing of my problem, have suggested that I give Barclays the UK address of a family member, the most obvious one being my son Phillip, as he has the same surname as me. Unfortunately, this isn’t possible as I have to declare that his address is where I live. And I don’t live there, nor am I on the Electoral Roll there. Banks require proof of your residential address as I shall shortly explain.

In online discussions with other Brits affected by this problem, several people recommended opening an account with HSBC, who several years ago, took over what was the Midland Bank. According to their website, they are happy to open an account with anyone who lives in the UK or the EU. Whilst it is possible to do this online, I decided I would prefer to do it by talking to a human being. So during my recent visit to the UK from which I returned a few days ago, I planned a visit to the HSBC branch in central Nottingham, whilst staying a few nights at the home of my son.

So on Monday 22nd August, I went into HSBC’s Clumber Street, Nottingham branch to apply to open a new account. After much discussion as to what documentation I needed to show to prove my ID and my address, it was agreed that my UK passport identified me and my Czech biometric permanent residency card proved my residential address. My biometric residency card was issued to me last November, replacing the passport style document I wrote about and illustrated in this post from December 2017. This grants me, ‘Trvalý pobyt clánek 50 Smlouvy o EU / Permanent residence under Article 50 of the EU Treaty’. This is my new status courtesy of Brexit.

Outside the Czech Ministry of the Interior office in Ústí nad Labem on 2nd November 2021 with my shiny new biometric Czech ID card granting me Trvalý pobyt clánek 50 Smlouvy o EU / Permanent residence under Article 50 of the EU Treaty © Ricky Yates

I was given a letter, addressed to me, welcoming me as a new HSBC customer and giving me the details of my new account number and sort code. All I now needed to do was tell Barclays to transfer the balance of my account to this new account with HSBC and give the same details to the Church of England Pension Board.

Unfortunately, soon after I got back to my son’s home, my mobile phone rang. It was Tracy, one of the HSBC staff I had been dealing with earlier that afternoon. Someone higher up the chain of command at HSBC had spotted that what I had called my, ‘Czech ID card’, was not a Czech ID card but was my biometric residency card, and therefore wasn’t sufficient proof of my address. Of course I don’t have a Czech ID card because I’m not Czech. But it is my ID card as a ‘Third Country National’, as far as the Czech authorities are concerned.

We were back to what had been discussed earlier in the day. To prove that I really did live at the address on the back of my biometric residency card, I needed to present a bank statement from a British bank, (obviously from Barclays), that had been sent through the post to my Czech address, and was less than four months old. But, as encouraged by Barclays and out of concern for the environment, I had gone paperless many years previously, happy to accept online statements. And my letter from Barclays, telling me about the closure of my account, was dated 10th February 2022, though not received until sometime in March.

So the next day, it was back into the centre of Nottingham to visit Barclays. A young man called Kieren on the Barclays front desk, was most helpful. Despite his female colleague saying it couldn’t be done, Kieren assured me that he could order a postal statement for me to be sent to my Czech address, and proceeded to do so on his laptop computer, there and then. A week later and back home in Stará Oleška, I’m eagerly awaiting its arrival. Of course, UK postal workers are currently holding a series of strikes 🙁

When, (and if!), I receive this posted bank statement, I then have to post it back to Tracy at HSBC. Only when she receives it, will my new HSBC account be activated. The two banks are effectively on the same street, within sight of each other. Absurd is putting it mildly. In the meantime, my Barclays account has been frozen and my August pension payment, due today, will be returned by Barclays to the Church of England Pensions Board.

One more wonderful ‘benefit’ of Brexit 🙁

5 comments to Brexit, Barclays & HSBC Banks

  • Sean McCann

    Hi Ricky,

    Banks everywhere seem to have forgotten their customers and the idea of customer service. I understand that some of this stems from security concerns and fears of money laundering by criminals, but surely long standing customers of their own or another ‘high street’ bank can be given leeway when setting up an account and checked subsequently if and when something suspicious occurred. Requiring an account to ‘house’ your pension, you were unlikely to be transferring millions (or even tens of thousands) of pounds through this without drawing attention to yourself.
    You were lucky to be able to deal with a human cashier, Irish banks currently do their utmost to prevent a customer dealing with a staff member except for ‘a human signpost ‘ who directs you to whichever machine or online ‘interface’ they decide you should use. The banks seem to have decided customers are ‘non persons’ in a very Orwellian sense.
    Good luck with the financial services industry Ricky.

    • Ricky

      Hi Sean!

      Thank you for your understanding & sympathy. Like you, I understand banks have security concerns & the need not to facilitate money laundering criminals. But the rigid set of rules as to what is an acceptable way of proving that I live where I say I live, is beyond belief.

      I am still waiting to receive the promised bank statement from Barclays. However, on 1st September, I received a letter from the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), asking me to get a life certificate completed, basically to prove that I’m still alive. Because I live outside of the UK, the DWP believe that they may not be informed when I eventually have my appointment with the grim reaper. As the HSBC website says that ‘a DWP letter confirming your right to benefits (dated within the last 4 months), is acceptable as proof of address’, I’ve sent this to Tracy by registered post. Whilst the letter doesn’t confirm my right to benefits, it does state quite clearly that I will lose my right to benefits, unless I fill in and return the life certificate.

      Then today, I received a letter telling me the PIN code for my new HSBC account, sent to address HSBC aren’t sure that I live at 😉 I’m left to wonder whether the left-hand knows what the right-hand is doing at HSBC.

      Regarding having a human being to deal with, I deliberately chose to try and sort out my UK banking arrangements in Nottingham because it is a large city where banks still have branches, staffed by humans. My now frozen Barclays account was officially held at a branch which was closed down nearly two years ago.

      Watch this space & I’ll post updates of future progress.

  • Hi Ricky! Catching up with your posts. Dealing with fallout from Brexit is irritating enough as a non-Brit, so I cannot imagine having to deal with Brexit as a citizen! It has been tough moving to the EU as a third-country national but this seems to even pale in comparison to this banking debacle! Glad you found a solution. Banking from abroad is a humungous headache. We had to scramble to open up accounts to receive our American stimulus checks a few years ago and find one that would accept us, not being there in person, amongst other things. I have to say I really do appreciate Czech banking a lot after all of this!

    • Ricky

      Hi Cynthia! Thank you for catching up. I need to do the same with your blog but, having paid a brief visit, I see I need to congratulate you on the new arrival. The main reason I haven’t visited is that Bloglovin has ceased to let me know when you have a new post 🙁

      I’ve made some progress with this banking debacle as you rightly describe it. I’ve heard from HSBC that the letter from the UK Department of Work & Pensions that I sent them, (see my reply to Sean’s earlier comment), has successfully proved my address. Now it’s the problem of getting my money from Barclays, now that they’ve closed my account. Like you, these days I’m very happy with my Czech banking arrangements.

  • […] one day after I wrote the first installment of this saga, a letter arrived in my mail box. No, not the promised bank statement from Barclays, but a letter […]