By James Salmon
More than 20,000 pensioners may have been victims of the HSBC investment mis-selling scandal, it emerged yesterday.
The shamed High Street giant will contact 11,000 elderly savers sold investments intended to fund the cost of care in their old age since 2004, by its rogue advice subisdiary, the Nursing Homes Fees Agency.
An estimated 10,000 more may have been lured into gambling their cash since the firm was founded in 1991. Many of the victims are likely to have already died.
On Monday, HSBC was hit with a record £10.5million fine and ordered to pay £29.3million compensation after NHFA was found to have mis-sold investments to 2,485 people between 2005 and 2010.
Victims, who were on average aged 83 but some as old as 94, were persuaded to part with an average £115,000, often nest eggs from the sale of their homes.
Last night, as the bank tried to salvage its tarnished reputation, more revelations emerged:
Insiders claim staff were advised to target lone, elderly customers visiting branches before families got involved;
The bank has uncovered evidence of mis-selling from before it took over in 2005;
HSBC branch staff were still passing elderly customers to NHFA salesmen in April – almost 18 months after the mis-selling was uncovered;
HSBC staff were rewarded for passing at least ten to 15 elderly customers to NHFA every three months – pocketing £30 a person.
Staff would receive further payments of up to £100 if the customer was duped into parting with cash.
The massive mis-selling problem at NHFA was uncovered by HSBC towards the end of 2009. An investigation followed in 2010.
HSBC said it was writing to every customer who had been sold an investment by NHFA since 2005, when HSBC took over. Not all of these 11,000 customers were defnitely victims.
The Financial Services Authority has investigated a large number of cases from 2005 to 2010. None of the 2,485 victims of the mis-selling uncovered to date are likely to know yet that they are affected. HSBC has asked anyone concerned to contact the bank.
Brian Robertson, chief executive of HSBC, told the Mail: ‘We will take responsibility for all NHFA customers, including those from before HSBC bought NHFA in 2005 – to ensure this issue is resolved.
‘We will look at each complaint individually and sympathetically.’
Further revelations about HSBC’s sales tactics emerged from insiders yesterday.
A member of frontline sales staff, who has worked for HSBC for seven years, said: ‘We were given a target of recommending ten-15 elderly customers every three months.
‘Each referral would earn about 1,000 “selling properly points” towards our targets. This would equate to commission of £30.