This same shameless company has been investigated for illegally manipulating the markets to maximise its profits, for enabling some pretty dodgy individuals to evade taxes and profit from drug-trafficking, and which has also been fined hundreds of millions of pounds for mis-selling its products.
What an unsavoury outfit. And yet I still choose to bank with HSBC because, for the most part, it’s always been pretty good to me.
Efficient, responsive and generous, its members of staff have fostered within me a loyalty so that when those appalling stories have emerged I’ve not instantly abandoned them in a moralistic huff.
So it’s hugely ironic that HSBC – a bank that has been consumed by allegations of illegality for at least a decade – has pulled the plug on its relationship with the tainted PR outfit Bell Pottinger.
In fact, so outraged was it by that firm’s disgraceful antics in South Africa with the Gupta family that it was the first one to exit the Holborn head office, nobly announcing this week: "We have used Bell Pottinger for specific products in the past but will not be doing so in the future."
Like toppling dominoes, HSBC was followed by Singapore investment company Temasek, luxury goods maker Richemont and Investec, the South African investment bank.
No doubt there will be many more that decide that the indelibly tarnished Bell Pottinger is simply not a good fit for their brand.
This is the same Temasek that, owned by the shadowy Singapore Ministry of Finances, exacerbated Thailand’s political crisis when it bought a company owned by the disgraced former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
This is the same Richemont that, while selling clean-living luxury goods and boasting of its sustainability credentials, prefers not to talk about its massive investment in tobacco.
This is the same Investec whose name cropped up hundreds of times in the so-called Panama Papers after controversial law firm Mossack Fonseca was hacked.
My point is, there are very few high-performing companies on the planet that have not had the occasional black mark against their name.
It’s why they hire successful reputation-enhancing companies like Bell Pottinger. And look at how they run when the shoe is on the other foot...Grant Feller, director of GF-Media
Personally, I think those who are currently abandoning Bell Pottinger are showing not a moralistic courage but a panicked cowardice.Grant Feller, director of GF-Media
Some of their clients, like my HSBC, might have behaved unethically. Some of their bosses’ decisions, like those at HSBC, were unforgiveable. Some of their behaviour, like HSBC’s, was obscenely arrogant.
Yet, like HSBC, they also provide a largely brilliant service to customers who, like me, value loyalty and know that the best companies learn from their inevitable mistakes.
Personally, I think those who are currently abandoning Bell Pottinger are showing not a moralistic courage but a panicked cowardice.
After all, in an unsavoury game of reputations, they’re hardly equipped to take the high ground.
In fact, when it comes to reputations, the remaining brands in Bell Pottinger’s stable might want to recall the bitter wisdom of one of the most conniving baddies – and effective influencers - in all of literature.
Reputation, according to Shakespeare’s Iago, "is an idle and most false imposition, oft got without merit and lost without deserving".
Those idiotic staff members who screwed up deserve to be banished, but do the rest of them?
Grant Feller is the director of GF-Media