Those of us in Hong Kong love to rag on HSBC and sure, they deserve it. But they’ve never screwed me the way that Bank of America has. Here’s what happened.
I have a joint account with my mother with Bank of America in the U.S. I’ve needed the money in this account for my basic living expenses for the past six months. I am unable to initiate wire transfers over the internet from this account so my mother has to go into the branch office and sign the forms so that the money comes to me. It has always come to my account the same day she has sent it.
Last week, she went into the same Bank of America branch she always goes to. The guy she sees there, the one who knows me personally and has handled all of the transfers, had the day off. So she goes to another person there who fills out the forms for her.
BofA has never needed the SWIFT code to complete the transaction. It goes through just fine with the bank name and a few other details. But this person took it upon herself to be “helpful” and put a SWIFT code on the form. The wrong code. If you look up SWIFT codes for HSBC, there are dozens, if not hundreds of them. And this person filled in the code for HSBC Investment Holdings Ltd, which is pretty far away from HSBC Hong Kong.
As such, the money left the U.S. but never arrived in my account. 5 days later Bank of America told us that they would inform HSBC and get the money transferred correctly. One week later they have told us that HSBC cannot transfer the money to my account and can only send it back to Bank of America and that they have no idea how long that will take.
Bank of America insists that there is absolutely nothing else that they can do and have helpfully suggested that I should find some more money and transfer that to HK while I’m waiting for this mess to sort itself out.
I know this will never happen and perhaps I am being naive but it seems to me they should say, “We screwed up, we’ll send the money to your account and we’ll sort out the other money when we get it back. It was our screw up and we will do what it takes to make it right.” But of course they’re not going to do it.
In the meantime I have bills that are about to be overdue and a doctor who needs to be paid this week to continue treatments that I need.
My mother wants to hire a lawyer but I’m not sure what lawyer would take this case given that it’s just been a week and, while the money may seem like a huge amount to us, in the grand scheme of things others might see it as a trivial sum.
Either way, it’s been one week. She doesn’t have the money. I don’t have the money. It has vanished into the ether and it could be weeks until this gets sorted out.