Buzzfeed has picked up on the story that HSBC has chosen to close the bank accounts of Anas Altikriti, “an outspoken pro-Palestinian commentator,”, his wife and his two children, aged 12 and 16. The family, who all live in the UK, received letters from the bank, giving them 60 days to find an alternative bank which they have shared with the press. The bank has also reportedly contacted the Finsbury Park mosque and the Ummah Welfare Trust with similar news; their accounts will be closed by September. The bank has declined to provide a reason for the closure, Altikriti told the press.
In a published letter, the bank gave an explanation that it is closing the account of The Cordoba Foundation, a public relations firm dedicated to fostering relationships between the west and the “Muslim world“, because the account fell “outside of our risk appetite.”
Under a risk based approach to banking, financial institutions are guided to manage clients and client accounts depending on the risks they pose to the bank. This could be based upon the level of risk posed in terms of operations, compliance, reputation or financial crime, to name a few risk areas. If a bank closes an account, it could lead to the client becoming financially excluded from the financial system. The chances of a second bank taking on a client who has been ejected from one institution are slim, or at least unlikely without the bank making some enquiries into the reasons why the first bank closed the account. Due diligence at this stage could either convince the second bank that they too do not have a risk appetite to take on the account-less client. Alternatively, the bank may decide that carrying out enhanced due diligence, to go beyond an overview of the client and account, could end up being too costly an exercise to carry out.