First Direct, the online and telephone banking arm of HSBC, has seen nearly 20,000 of its customers close their current accounts, after imposing a monthly GBP10 charge on the account in February 2007, the Financial Times has revealed.

According to the news site, the HSBC-owned bank has over 1.2 million customers and will charge customers GBP10 a month if they do not meet the requirement of paying in GBP1,500 a month, or maintain an average balance of GBP1,500.

Customers can also avoid the fee by taking out another product with the bank, such as a savings account. It is believed that around 195,000 people have been affected by these monthly charges.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Chris Pilling, chief executive at First Direct, claimed that more than 85% of its customers would not be charged. What we have seen is a significant number of customers in that group have made changes in their current account and put more money in to achieve the balance.

He also added that just under 10% of the 195,000 affected were paying the monthly charge, the Financial Times reported.