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HSBC inundated by foreign currency account requests

[LONDON] HSBC Holdings Plc has been inundated with foreign-currency account applications as British customers rush to protect their savings, spooked by the post-Brexit rout in the pound.

Those who've requested the accounts, which allow customers to hold their cash in foreign currencies for overseas trips or to cover international payments, are being told the waiting time is 10 to 15 days, according to Jenna Brown, a spokeswoman for the London-based bank. That's opposed to five working days advertised on the bank's website.

"We have seen increased interest in the HSBC Currency Account recently, and we are continuing to accept new applications," Ms Brown said in an e-mail. However, customers may have to wait longer for the accounts to be opened, she said.

The UK's shock vote to leave the European Union has spread turmoil across financial markets, driving the pound to a 31-year low against the dollar this week as almost three- quarters of economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast the UK is headed for a recession. Britons are equally pessimistic: a survey released Friday showed consumer confidence fell the most in 21 years, following similarly bleak business confidence report the day before.

HSBC offers the accounts in 14 currencies, including euros and dollars, allowing customers to convert their cash at market- exchange rates, according to its website. To get their money out, clients have to transfer it back to their sterling accounts or withdraw cash in a branch. Clients can move an unlimited amount between their HSBC accounts, but international payments are restricted to £50,000 (S$87,215) online.