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Fighting financial crime


In 2012, HSBC was fined $1.9 billion by the US government for failing to prevent customers laundering money through its network and breaching sanctions. Four years later, HSBC’s global communications team was challenged to produce a series of films that re-ignited the anti-crime campaign and sent a simple message to the bank’s 230,000 employees: ‘YOU are vital to the fight against financial crime.’

The team produced two films, featuring real criminals who described how they worked and just how staff could have stopped them.

The first film Accuracy vs Truth featured an accounting fraudster who had used false documents to commit one of America’s biggest ever frauds. He explained how he had duped bankers and accountants, and stolen hundreds of millions of pounds. He also stated that, just by asking a few simple questions, bank staff could have spotted his crime.

The second film Human Trafficking featured a subject that is a major concern for retail banking. Although anti-trafficking charities warned that no trafficker would ever agree to a filmed interview, the team persisted, travelling to Montenegro where they met a former trafficker who explained how the system worked. He revealed how he had used banking to enslave his victims, and that banks could have stopped him. A victim of human trafficking also featured in the film; he explained how his traffickers used high street bank accounts to steal his wages.

The films enjoyed record viewing figures within HSBC; each one was watched more than 100,000 times. They were also played in every team meeting worldwide so that staff could discuss what they had seen and learned. They were also praised by the UK’s leading anti-trafficking charity while the director of EU’s law enforcement agency expressed admiration for the initiative.

As a result, HSBC is now changing its policies to ensure rescued victims of trafficking are helped as much as possible to restore their financial identity. Further films covering subjects such as drug trafficking and terrorist funding have also been commissioned.

‘This was a really good idea and very well executed with great global reach,’ said the judges.