"One of the world's biggest banks has been accused of 'cultural insensitivity' after dressing up an overweight white man to look like a sumo wrestler.
HSBC, which calls itself 'the world's local bank', is running a series of billboard and print advertisements featuring the wrestler alongside the slogan: 'Fixed savings rates that won't budge.'
The campaign has upset members of Britain's Japanese community, who claim that the man's skin tone has been darkened and that make-up has been applied that appears to narrow his eyes. The pseudo sumo - a model known only as Brian - has been given a Japanese-style wig and is dressed in a traditional mawashi belt.
Although HSBC has denied making the model look as if he is from 'a specific country or region', a spokesman admitted that make-up had been applied to his face and eyes and that his skin tone had been made to appear more tanned."
(Elizabeth Day, The Observer, UK, Sunday August 24 2008)
"Forget old-fashioned occupations and sit-ins: student protest has gone 'viral'. Online networking phenomenon Facebook has emerged as the venue for a rapidly proliferating campaign that has already brought in thousands of recent graduates. It's called 'Stop the Great HSBC Graduate Rip-Off!'
Students with HSBC bank accounts, graduating this summer, have been astonished to discover they face unexpected bills of up to £140 a year for running an overdraft after the bank withdrew its interest-free deal in July. In previous years HSBC, like other high street banks, has allowed students an interest-free overdraft - typically up to £1,500-£2,000 - for the first couple of years after graduation. But in July it became the first high street bank to scrap free overdrafts for university leavers. It charges interest at 9.9%.
But HSBC didn't reckon on a cyber-rebellion, begun by Wes Streeting, a Cambridge NUS vice-president opening up the Facebook group. Over the past few weeks it has exploded, with more than 2,500 graduates signed up and dozens more joining every day.
The group's 'wall' contains hundreds of angry postings. Typical is this one from a student at Hertfordshire University: 'I have closed my account [at HSBC] . . . and paid my overdraft with an interest-free account! The charges r crazy . . . how r we ever supposed to get outta debt after uni!'
Leeds University graduate Johnny Chatterton first heard about the overdraft charge via Facebook. 'When I first went to university, the deal at HSBC was that the interest-free overdraft would be gradually phased out over a number of years after you left. Out of the blue, I received a letter giving me two weeks' notice it would be withdrawn on July 28. I have a £1,750 overdraft and it has really overshadowed my summer. I've been working for a small charity before returning to do a masters degree, but now I'll have to leave and get a better paying job.'
Mr Streeting, a veteran NUS campaigner, says even he's been taken aback by the scale of the protest. 'I invited my friends on Facebook to respond, and it has turned into a viral campaign. It's a lot better than email and gives people a place where they can protest."
(Patrick Collinson and Tony Levene, The Guardian, Saturday August 25 2007)