HSBC says it could charge for current accounts

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Europe's biggest bank, HSBC, has said it could start charging for "basic banking services" in some countries after it reported a 35% fall in quarterly profits.

It said it was considering charging for products such as current accounts, which are free to UK customers.

The bank said it was losing money on a "large number" of such accounts.

A spokesman later told the BBC it was committed to continuing to provide free "basic bank accounts" in the UK .

But they added: "We always keep under review the pricing for our standard current accounts and associated services."

Very few banks charge for standard bank accounts, but experts say this could change if the UK falls into negative interest rates due to the pandemic.

That would see the Bank of England take interest rates below zero to help boost consumer spending and revive the economy.

HSBC reported a 35% fall in pre-tax profit during the third quarter of the year to $3.1bn (£2.3bn), while revenues fell 11%.

Along with other banks, it has seen earnings hit amid an environment of rock bottom interest rates, and so is now considering other ways of boosting revenues.

The lender also said it would accelerate its restructuring plan, cutting costs further than previously suggested.

But HSBC, which is in the midst of cutting 35,000 jobs, did not say whether more jobs would now go. It said it would provide details on the plan with its full-year results next February.

'Promising results'

Despite the tough environment, HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn said there were some bright spots.

"These were promising results against a backdrop of the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on the global economy," he said.

"I'm pleased with the significantly lower credit losses in the quarter, and we are moving at pace to adapt our business model to a protracted low interest rate environment."

HSBC had set aside between $8bn and $13bn for bad loans as it expects more people and businesses to default on their repayments because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, it now says its expenses are likely to be at the lower end of that range.

In September, HSBC's share price fell to its lowest level since 1995 amid allegations that the bank had allowed fraudsters to transfer millions of dollars around the world, even after learning of the scam.

The bank has also faced recent criticism from the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for supporting China's controversial security legislation in Hong Kong.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, HSBC was restructuring with a plan to cut $4.5bn (£3.6bn) of costs by 2022.

At its peak, the bank employed more than 300,000 people, but since the global financial crisis, the bank has trimmed its operations significantly.