30 March 2016

HSBC and first direct announce launch of British Sign Language service

Nearly a third of deaf or hard of hearing adults surveyed say a lack of access puts them off using day-to-day service providers


HSBC and first direct are launching a British Sign Language Video Relay Service (VRS) in the UK. The move will make it easier for the deaf community who use British Sign Language (BSL) to communicate with the banks through their telephone banking service. This comes as new research shows a significant number of deaf and hard of hearing adults are put off from using service providers, like banks, building societies and utility companies, due to a lack of access (29%).

VRS is an online video interpreting service which from today can be accessed through the HSBC and first direct websites. It enables deaf BSL users to contact their bank via an on-screen interpreter who communicates using BSL with the customer and then relays the conversation to the customer service adviser in spoken English.

HSBC’s UK head of customer contact, Joe Gordon said: “Research has shown that many members of the deaf community are put off from using essential day-to-day service providers due to a lack of access and some believe they have even been financially disadvantaged as a result. Financial inclusion is extremely important to us and we believe everyone should have the tools they need to help them take control of their finances. This roll-out of the BSL Video Relay Service will make it much easier for deaf BSL users to contact us directly, manage their money and communicate with us.

“Digital innovations allow us to improve every aspect of the customer experience and this launch is no exception. It is another example of technology being introduced to make sure customers can access their finances more easily, safely and securely.”

Tracy Garrad, chief executive of first direct, said: “At first direct we always want to provide the best possible service for all our customers. We are investing heavily in digital innovation and while we already provide Text Phone and Text Relay services, introducing BSL Video Relay Service means we are going one step further and making it easier for BSL users to talk to us.”

The launch of VRS is supported by new consumer online research findings from YouGov, commissioned by HSBC, which reveal that the telephone is the least accessible mode of communication, of those listed, for deaf or hard of hearing consumers, with 44% agreeing it is a difficult channel for communication. Nearly one third (29%) are also put off from using service providers (e.g. banks and utilities companies) due to a lack of access.

Paul Breckell, chief executive at Action on Hearing Loss said: “It is great to see that the banking industry is giving attention to inclusion and accessibility among its customers with hearing loss, which affects 11 million people in the UK. Accessibility influences customers’ purchasing decisions and if a customer feels they are not able to get the experience they want and need, they are likely to vote with their feet. The launch of this VSR service is a step in the right direction for HSBC.”

Encouragingly, almost one quarter of those surveyed (23%) believe that progress is being made by companies to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing communities.

For more information about the service and a demonstration of how it works please visit HSBC.co.uk/accessibility or firstdirect.com/contact-us

Media contacts

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Joshua Breckman
T: +44 20 3772 2533
M: +44 7990 003 146
E-mail: jbreckman@bellpottinger.com

Notes to editors

Research was conducted by YouGov. Total sample size was 1005 hearing impaired adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 11th – 15th March, 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures are weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

HSBC and first direct customers will need a device with a camera to use the service e.g. a tablet, smartphone or desktop webcam.

For the latest updates, visit the HSBC UK newsroom.

HSBC Bank plc
HSBC serves c17 million customers in the UK and employs approximately 46,000 people. In the UK, HSBC offers a complete range of personal, premier and private banking services including bank accounts and mortgages. It also provides commercial banking for small to medium businesses and corporate and institutional banking services. HSBC Bank plc is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc.

The HSBC Group
HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 6,000 offices in 71 countries and territories in Asia, Europe, North and Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa. With assets of US$2,410bn at 31 December 2015, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations.

first direct
first direct provides telephone, online and mobile banking services to its 1.3m customers and offers a full range of personal banking products including its multi-award winning current account and mortgages. It has been recognised for its excellent customer service by numerous independent third parties including Which? Moneywise, Moneyfacts and Moneysavingexpert.com. As well as its Facebook page, first direct uses social media to engage with customers through sites like YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr.


HSBC and first direct announce launch of British Sign Language service (2-page PDF 375KB)