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HSBC Incurs £57 Million Fine in the UK for Incorrectly Classifying Deposits

ByDayne Lee

Jan 30, 2024

HSBC Incurs £57 Million Fine in the UK for Incorrectly Classifying Deposits

HSBC Holdings Plc has been subjected to a significant fine of £57.4 million (equivalent to $73 million) by UK regulatory authorities due to deficiencies related to how it classified deposits for protection in the event of bank failure. The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) announced this penalty, marking it as their second-largest fine ever, indicating the gravity of HSBC’s failings that spanned from 2015 to 2022. The regulatory body highlighted that HSBC’s failures particularly involved inaccuracies in identifying deposits eligible for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) protection.

Sam Woods, the Chief Executive Officer of the PRA, emphasized the severity of these failings, noting that they strike at the core of the PRA’s objective to ensure safety and soundness in the banking sector. He stressed the imperative for all banks to adhere strictly to the regulatory requirements concerning preparedness for resolution.

Depositor protection rules necessitate that financial firms establish robust systems, controls, and governance to guarantee prompt repayment to depositors if a firm fails. Under these rules, client deposits up to £85,000 are insured and fully reimbursed in the event of a bank’s collapse.

This fine against HSBC is surpassed only by the £87 million penalty imposed on Credit Suisse by the PRA in the previous year, related to the bank’s interactions with Archegos Capital Management. Despite this significant penalty, HSBC’s shares in London saw little fluctuation early Tuesday.

The PRA’s actions stemmed from an inquiry initiated in October 2019, when it questioned HSBC regarding the treatment of a particular client’s deposits concerning their eligibility for FSCS protection. This inquiry led HSBC to form an internal working group to assess if it was accurately marking deposits qualifying for the scheme.

HSBC, upon realizing the extent of the issue with mismarking deposits, did not immediately inform the PRA, waiting until April 2021 to disclose the problem. This delay was highlighted in a separate notice issued on Tuesday.

The PRA, in its statement, criticized HSBC for not being sufficiently open and cooperative. The bank failed to alert the PRA for about 15 months regarding identified problems in incorrectly marking accounts as eligible for FSCS protection. This lack of timely communication was viewed as a breach of expectations by the regulatory authority, which expects firms to share such critical information fully and promptly.

Initially, HSBC faced a heftier fine of £96.5 million. However, the bank’s cooperative stance, early admission of certain regulatory breaches, and agreement to a settlement led to a reduction in the penalty, as stated by the PRA.

In response to the penalty, a spokesperson for HSBC expressed the bank’s satisfaction in resolving this matter. The spokesperson pointed out that the PRA’s final notice acknowledged HSBC’s cooperation throughout the investigation and the bank’s efforts to comprehensively address the issues at hand.

This incident underscores the importance of strict adherence to regulatory requirements and the consequences of lapses in compliance, especially in the critical area of depositor protection. It highlights the need for financial institutions to maintain rigorous systems and controls to ensure compliance with protective measures, thus safeguarding the interests of their clients and upholding the integrity of the financial system. The significant fine imposed on HSBC serves as a reminder to the banking sector of the serious implications of regulatory non-compliance and the need for transparency and cooperation with regulatory bodies.

In the broader context, this development reflects ongoing efforts by regulatory authorities to enforce compliance and ensure stability in the financial sector. Such actions are pivotal in maintaining consumer confidence and trust in financial institutions, particularly in the wake of past financial crises that have underscored the importance of robust regulatory frameworks and effective oversight. As the financial landscape continues to evolve, the role of regulatory bodies like the PRA in monitoring and enforcing compliance remains crucial in safeguarding the financial system’s resilience and reliability.

Featured image credit: William via Adobe Stock

Dayne Lee

With a foundation in financial day trading, I transitioned to my current role as an editor, where I prioritize accuracy and reader engagement in our content. I excel in collaborating with writers to ensure top-quality news coverage. This shift from finance to journalism has been both challenging and rewarding, driving my commitment to editorial excellence.