I opened an account with HSBC several years in Canada but then moved out of the country. In the interim they fired half the people in their office (the main office in a major city), including my banker, who in my view was so smart and so suave he should have been working at Goldman. Those remaining were the bottom half of the class. Eventually these were replaced as well by a bunch of very poorly trained and unpleasantly aggressive #$%$. Customer service has been criminal. Three requests for new checks, four for a change of address and two for a new bank card (those with chips have a ridiculously high defect rate) have been totally ignored. Pleasant voices in Mumbai or London or Zanzibar say "thy will be done" but nothing ever happens. Direct calls to one of the #$%$ at the main office results in forms being sent. Forms are filled and signed and nothing ever happens. I am now writing my last check to close the account and giving it to a prestigious American bank to collect. I'm holding my breath that HSBC doesn't find some way to wriggle out of a routine transaction. Did you say record keeping? Online access guarantees you'll see only 3 months of statements. Anything older has to be requested in paper form, something that has as much likelihood of arriving as the checks I requested. Tremendous fun when you need those statements for an IRS audit! So, because they practically mandate that one have paper statements, they are the least green, most tree-killing bank too.
And this is not a local problem. I tried to get certain things done at branches in London and Miami. It seemed everywhere I turned there was an unrelated hard sell from some poorly trained spiv who, when he couldn't answer basic questions, resorted to lies. "What is the spread between the published and your rate of exchange for pounds to dollars?" "Oh, we use the published rate and charge a fee." #$%$. They use their internally published rate, not the rate you will know from Bloomberg or even this website, and it has a spread of 2.5% or more to the published rate. The guys in the Miami office were dressed in suits but looked like their real occupation was skateboarding or doing jello shots in off hours -- trailer trash compared to the immaculately attired, suave bilingual Cubans you'll find at the local banks. HSBC's modus seems to be: market the hell out of the bank, hard-sell your customers and once you've got their deposits, let them hang.
I believe that in the long run it is impossible for a bank to be so completely shoddy and survive. I do not believe any of their numbers and it wouldn't surprise me if they were brought low by some catastrophic accounting event of their own making. Even if that doesn't happen, their contempt for customers should eventually cause them to shrivel. I have no direct experience of their commercial division but I will say that I have friends in corporations that absolutely loathe the bank and dread having to listen to their pitches. I've never in my life been given such vivid, compelling and direct evidence for not buying a bank's stock or bonds.