With our global presence, HSBC is in a unique position to connect customers to opportunities both here in the UK and throughout the world. It is something of which we are extremely proud.
More importantly, though, we have a mission to protect those same customers from the very real threat of financial crime.
This is a global problem that costs the world economy as much as 1.2 trillion dollars a year. In 2016, the UK alone lost GBP 2 million each day as a result of financial fraud. In a world that's more connected than ever, there's an even greater need for security and banks like HSBC have a clear responsibility to prevent crimes such as money laundering, bribery and fraud.
Some years ago, we clearly failed to do this. We have taken responsibility for that and are absolutely committed to meeting the highest standards in our controls against this kind of activity.
Across our global network, we are working every day to tackle financial crime. We continually invest in technology to stay ahead of criminal enterprises and work closely with regulators and law enforcement agencies to share intelligence and identify threats.
As important as these measures are, though, they are no substitute for a deep understanding of our customers.
To effectively protect the interests of our customers and the financial system, we must understand exactly what each customer does, how they work, who they work with and where they operate. We must always be vigilant; ensuring the customers we bank are financially sound and striving to deter an ever-increasing range of threats.
That is why we undertake a thorough `Know your Customer' process - contacting both new and existing customers to ask them for more information about themselves and their business activities.
I realise that providing this information, especially if you have done so in the past, can be very frustrating and time-consuming and I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience that these requests may cause.
I would reiterate, though, that getting the right information is very important for us in the fight against financial crime. Our global systems are designed to protect and deter criminals and fraudsters but they rely on having the most up-to-date customer data.
In some circumstances, where we do not receive the information we need and cannot be confident that we have that deep understanding of a customer, we may be forced to exit the relationship or refuse to enter a new one.
This, of course, is not a decision we take lightly and is very much a last resort but as we strive to fulfil our responsibility to protect our customers, it is an action we may have to take. Of course, this is a situation we want to avoid which is why we are working with our customers to know them better.
As a bank, we take great satisfaction from working with business owners to help them fulfil their ambitions. Part of this support is providing the protection they need to move forward with confidence, safe from the threat of financial crime, while enabling them to grow their business.
If you have any questions about the `Know your Customer' process and the information we are requesting, please call us on 08000 304 516.
Across our global network, we are working every day to tackle financial crime.