Tuesday, November 24, 2009
In another sign of the times, now that big investors are beating down the doors of HSBC asking them to store their growing quantities of gold bullion as part of the 2009 mad dash to shore up investment portfolios with something that is not paper and has no counterparty risk, the little guy who had his bars and coins stored there is getting the boot.
This Wall Street Journal story($) has the details:
HSBC has told retail clients to remove their small holdings from its fortress beneath its tower on New York City's Fifth Avenue. The bank has decided retail customers aren't profitable enough and is demanding those clients remove their gold to make room for more lucrative institutional customers.It would be fascinating to learn more of the details here - who and what's getting booted.
An HSBC spokeswoman said the firm doesn't comment on its vault due to "security concerns."
HSBC's decision has created a logistical nightmare for both the investors and the security teams in charge of relocating the gold, silver and platinum to new vaults across the country. Many of those vaults are also feeling pressure from the surge in demand for space from clients that have stocked up on metal.
The movement of gold from HSBC has created a stir not only among the bank's clients, but also among owners of warehouses and vaults around the country.
"I have never seen any relocation like this," says Jonathan Potts, managing director of FideliTrade, the parent company of the Delaware Depository Service Co., which has two warehouses in Wilmington. FideliTrade's two vaults have been filling up at an unprecedented pace, in part because it is taking in metal that has been ejected by HSBC.
You can easily fit a half million dollars worth of gold in a large safe deposit box so, it's not clear just what kind of customer HSBC is asking to leave.
Are there that many individuals with millions of dollars in physical gold?
Apparently retirement companies that hold bullion for their customers (a very small, but growing segment of the market) are being affected and, as described below, it's not just gold, but silver, and that explains a lot.
Dealing with the fallout from HSBC's decision has become a full-time job for David Norris, executive vice president of GoldStar Trust Co., a Canyon, Texas-based retirement-account trustee, which organizes metal storage for its clients.Beyer's 50 silver bars weigh almost 300 pounds but are worth less than one 100 oz. gold bar.
Mr. Norris says HSBC told GoldStar in July to immediately cease sending coins for storage. GoldStar, which had sent clients' holdings to HSBC for at least 15 years, is now figuring out how to get the coins out of the HSBC vault and down to the Delaware facility. "I can jump up and down and scream all day long about how much I don't like it. But it's their business decision," Mr. Norris says.
Moving the metal is like "a big military operation," he says. Precious metals are typically shipped by insured carrier services or armored trucking companies. Carriers sometimes ship the metals in plain boxes so as not to attract attention. Trucks are guarded by a team of two or three armed personnel.
Bradley Beyer, a GoldStar customer in Kewaunee, Wis., has 50 100-ounce silver bars stored with HSBC waiting to be moved. "My only concern is that the bars will be moved safely," he says.
My guess is that HSBC is pushing a lot of silver out of its vaults to make room for gold...
They are telling customers to remove their metal or prepare for it to be delivered to the address of record at the owners' expense, so, be on the lookout for armored trucks in your neighborhood that leave packages on doorsteps if nobody is home.