British Columbia

HSBC dumps small businesses for international profiles

Banking giant HSBC is dumping some of its small business clients in favour of those with more internationally-oriented profiles.

The banking giant is sending letters to customers giving them 60 days to find a new bank

The bank will focus on businesses with international aspirations 2:41

Banking giant HSBC is dumping some of its small business clients in favour of those with more internationally-oriented profiles.

Linda Bryan is the owner of a small pharmacy in White Rock, B.C., who has been banking with HSBC for 17 years. Recently, she received a letter from the bank informing her she has 60 days to transition to another financial institution. 

"We will be closing the accounts listed above, along with all additional business accounts associated with this relationship," reads the HSBC letter addressed to Bryan.

She says she was stunned.

"I thought, had I done something? Was it something that I had done wrong? But I have not had any bad experiences with them so I couldn't really fathom that," says Bryan.

"I would always say 'I will never leave this bank' because they were the ones that gave me money when I needed it. And now they're ditching me."

And she's not alone. 

HSBC has been sending similar letters to small business owners in Canada and the United States for about a month. The bank will not say how many customers it is ridding itself of, but the number is large.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says the move is unacceptable.

"This is so bad from an optic standpoint that I don't think it's a good business move anyway you cut it," said CFIB director Mike Klassen.

Klassen said HSBC's services for small businesses have been declining for some time. 

"They don't even want to see you if you're not making $5 million a year." 

HSBC denies its decision to dump some customers is about turning profits. Rather it says it's trying to focus its resources on customers with international profiles.  

"Going forward we will focus our resources on those customer who are making the most of their relationship with HSBC, either because they are now or aspire to become international businesses, benefiting from our global footprint and connectivity," said HSBC's senior vice president of business banking Nigel Davis in a statement to CBC News. 

It's a move Bryan says is just not right.

"All businesses have clients that are small and clients that are big. And maybe everybody would rather turf the little ones and keep the big ones. But that's not the way it works if you're in an ethical business."

The CFIB says it will be calling on the federal government to push HSBC into giving its dumped customers more than two months to find a new bank.

With files from CBC's Deborah Goble