A NORTHWICH business owner has slammed his bank after they closed his account and left him with no access to thousands of pounds of his own money.

Alan Wilcox, who runs Wilcox Construction Services Ltd, said the closure came with no warning and that he only noticed something was wrong when the bank card associated with the account was declined.

Having banked with HSBC since he was a teenager, Alan, who lives in Antrobus, said he would now be switching to another provider having been a business customer since he established his company in 2009.

He said: "I've been a customer at the bank since I was eighteen.

"There's a system called safeguarding, which I knew nothing about to be honest.

"From December last year they were sending us letters apparently, asking us a business that we needed to do something online.

"I don't remember seeing these letters, and neither does my wife.

"They eventually sent us one in April saying they were going to close the account, but again I hadn't seen that either, although I'm not disputing these letters weren't sent, we just didn't see them.

"It was only in June when I tried to use my company bank card and it wouldn't work.

"When I phoned them up I was shocked when they told me my account had been closed."

HSBC confirmed to the Guardian that they carry out safeguarding reviews on all accounts, both for small business and large multi-national corporations, in order to protect customers from fraud and financial crime.

They added how the 'Know Your Customer' programme is carried out periodically to ensure information is up to date and that letter's had been sent out to Mr Wilcox in December 2020, with reminders in January and February before a final letter was issued in April, advising the account would be closed.

However, for Alan, the closure of the account was only just the beginning of his poor customer service experience with him having to go to great lengths to have it re-opened and regaining access to his own money.

"I asked them about the £4400 in my account and they said they'd send me a cheque," he said.

"This conversation went on for a while and I was getting nowhere.

"Eventually, they told me they would do me a favour and re-open the account but that it could take two weeks to do it.

"I kept checking online and eventually at the weekend (July 3/4) the account was back and my money was there.

"However, the next day when I looked, the balance was zero, which just made me really angry again."

Northwich Guardian: Alan Wilcox, who lives in Antrobus, had his company account closed

Alan Wilcox who has been banking with HSBC since he was a teenager

Having reached the end of his tether, Mr Wilcox went to the Northwich HSBC branch demanding the situation be urgently resolved, however it was only after contacting one of the company's business banking managers via Linkedin did the matter finally get resolved.

He added: "The branch had nobody on the business banking side, so it was pointless really.

"Fundamentally, having five weeks with no access to your money as a small business, regardless of whether you'd filled in forms or not, is not okay.

"Ironically, when I finally did get around to doing the forms, it was simply just re-confirming details they already had anyway.

"If this was something they did to someone's personal account you'd go mad wouldn't and expect them to contact you over the phone.

"I was that angry I even sent e-mails to the CEO, but the response I got back shocked me further as essentially it just said 'suck it up' and made no mention of my money I didn't have access to.

"If that's how they treat customers, then that's really poor.

"Can you imagine if I was employing people and having to pay wages, that could really cripple a business, especially in these times.

"The attitude of the CEO means I’ve set up an account with another bank now."

An HSBC UK spokesperson said: "We’ve now been in touch with the customer and have completed the account review to keep the account open.

"We conduct regular ‘Know Your Customer’ reviews in which we ask customers to provide information about themselves and their businesses, as part of our efforts to prevent financial crime.

"We allow several months for this process to ensure our customers have time to respond because we may need to speak to customers several times to acquire additional data and clarify what they’ve told us.

"We apologise for the inconvenience this causes, but urge customers to respond to our requests as promptly and comprehensively as possible."