The charitable side of ... HSBC

Indira Das-Gupta

Although the bank talks up its charitable giving, the amount it donates is less than half of 1 per cent of its profits.

Given that HSBC this week announced profits of £11.5bn for 2005, the biggest pre-tax profit ever made by a UK high-street bank, it can afford to dig deep when it comes to charitable giving.

In 2003 HSBC, which is one of the five biggest banks in the world, gave £9.9m to UK charities. In 2005, this increased to £16.7m, which is just 0.15 per cent of the bank's profits. Worldwide, the bank gave £47.1m, or 0.41 per cent of its profits, to charities last year.

HSBC is nevertheless keen to talk up its charitable credentials. Peter Bull, manager of HSBC In The Community, says: "We have offered payroll giving for years. Last November, we were the first UK bank to introduce a scheme that enables customers to donate to charity through cash machines."

Only BBC Children in Need currently benefits from the pilot scheme, but the bank hopes to roll it out to include other charities over the next few months.

Two key areas benefit from 75 per cent of HSBC's donations: education for disadvantaged young people, and the environment. The bank also actively encourages its employees to volunteer with local community organisations.

However, according to a report by Debt On Our Doorstep, HSBC made £750,000 last year from shares in the Capital Investment Group, which in turn has shares in Provident Financial, a company that charges such massive APR on loans to people on low incomes that interest of as much as £825 can be levied on a loan of £500.

Faisel Rahman, managing director of Fair Finance, commented: "HSBC might give to charity, but it's like putting a band aid on a problem it is contributing to."

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