HSBC accused of

HSBC has been accused of benefiting from higher interest rates while not fully passing them on to savers – after its pre-tax profits this year more than doubled to £16.9bn.

The banking giant’s results, for the first six months of 2023, are sharply up on the £6.6bn it reported during the same period a year ago.

Chief executive Noel Quinn said it had been “trying to get the balance right between savings and mortgages” and insisted the bank was considerate of the financial pressures many of its customers were under.

More than 80% of HSBC’s profits were generated outside of its UK business, including in China, Hong Kong, and the Middle East. The bank also benefited from its takeover of Silicon Valley Bank UK earlier this year.

However, Mr Quinn said the improvement in performance had been “aided by the interest rate environment”.

The Bank of England has raised interest rates 13 times in a row, most recently to 5% last month as it battles to bring down inflation. Other countries, including the US and across Europe have also seen rate rises this year.

Critics said HSBC’s profits boom was the latest example of a major bank benefiting from rising borrowing costs, including with mortgages.

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What is happening to mortgage rates?

Fran Boait, co-executive director of campaign group Positive Money, said: “Make no mistake: the growth in HSBC’s profits is a direct result of the higher interest rates its suffering customers are struggling to pay on their loans.”

She also accused the government of a “staggering lack of leadership” and said it should have acted quicker to make banks pass higher rates on to savers.

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Watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said on Monday that most savers were not feeling the full benefit of rate rises and announced new measures which will force banks to justify offering low savings rates.

Harriett Baldwin MP, the chair of the Treasury Committee, said: “This morning, we have further evidence that high street banks are making hay out of high-interest rates while still offering little to loyal savers.

“The FCA promised action yesterday under the Consumer Duty and we will be monitoring progress carefully.

“This isn’t just important to savers, it is important to the whole economy.”

Writing in HSBC’s interim report, Mr Quinn said: “In the UK, we have seen limited signs of stress in the mortgage book, although we are acutely aware of the day-to-day financial challenges that some of our customers face.

“With more mortgage customers due to roll off fixed-term deals in the next six months, and further rate rises expected, tougher times are ahead.

“We will continue to communicate regularly with our customers, listen to their concerns, seek to offer them help should they want it and ensure they are aware of the range of products available to them.”

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