I don’t want my bank calling me Mx Platell!
AT Face value, it is a gesture that shows the company’s liberal 21st century credentials as well as compassion and concern for its 17 million UK customers.
hSBC is offering customers the choice of ten gender neutral titles to ‘allow people who don’t identify as a particular gender or don’t want to be identified by gender, to choose the title that works for them’.
Transgender customers will no longer have to be labelled as Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms; they can choose from a range of options including Mx (which leaves a person’s gender unstated), Ind (an abbreviation for individual) and Msr (a blend of Miss and Sir, unfortunately pronounced ‘miser’).
No doubt the person who came up with this eye-wateringly inclusive concept will get a big bonus. It makes hSBC seem progressive and pins the bank’s oh- so-virtuous credentials firmly on its sleeve.
But to my mind, it is nothing more than a cynical PR exercise by a behemoth bank that shows contempt for customers at home, while engaging in tax avoidance and failing to detect money-laundering activities on an industrial scale overseas.
hSBC closed 55 branches in the UK last year and announced this year it would be closing 62 more. In the branches that do exist, bank tellers are all but extinct.
Trying to get the simplest transfer done on the phone drives customers to distraction as they’re transferred from one department to another — or to a call centre. Little wonder hSBC received 65,313 complaints in the first half of 2016 alone. Overseas, its private Swiss branch was hit by scandals including money laundering, fraud and tax evasion.
In Mexico, it laundered hundreds of millions of dollars, which helped the world’s biggest crime syndicate export hard drugs around the world, leading to countless deaths.
hSBC repeatedly conducted business with Iran, breaking U.S. sanctions, and had to pay a staggering $1.9 billion settlement to the U.S. authorities after being accused of a ‘pervasively polluted’ culture.
I accept that other banks have also behaved badly, and it has long been a great British institution.
And, of course, hSBC should accommodate its transgender customers and treat them with respect. But transgender people constitute just 0.3 per cent of the population. What they — and every other customer — want is improved service and reduced charges, not fatuous gestures.
human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell says this menu of gender options risks attracting ‘ridicule and backlash’. And he’s right.
Because it has almost nothing to do with genuine customer service. It’s just a gimmick to make a deeply tarnished institution look good.