HSBC Global Pay, Hiring Freeze Put Into Effect In Order To Reduce Costs: Sources

HSBC, Europe’s largest lender, recently announced a global pay and hiring freeze that will be put into effect this year. On Friday, HSBC staff received an email detailing the latest cost-saving measures, sources — who spoke on condition of anonymity — said. But, according to a report from the South China Morning Post, a senior official said hirings in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta of China will continue despite the tough economic conditions and a slowing Chinese economy.

Like several other global banks, HSBC is in the midst of an effort to cut costs and increase profitability and returns to shareholders, and it is currently developing plans to achieve annual cost savings of up to $5 billion by 2017, a Reuters report explained.

HSBC unveiled in June it plans to eliminate nearly one in five jobs and reduce the size of its investment bank by a third in response to slow economic growth and stricter regulation of bank balance sheet risk.

“This is in line with HSBC’s moves to lower operating costs,” Richard Cao, a Shenzhen-based analyst at Guotai Junan Securities Co, explained in a report published by Bloomberg. “HSBC can’t escape from the global economic slowdown and worsening asset quality like other global banks.”

“As flagged in our Investor Update, we have targeted significant cost reductions by the end of 2017,” a spokeswoman for HSBC was quoted as saying.

The news of the HSBC global pay and hiring freeze comes just a few days after HSBC board members met to consider whether they would move company headquarters to Hong Kong and to focus on the bank’s strategy.

Although more than half of jobs HSBC is recruiting for are located in places other than Hong Kong or Shanghai, they are still hiring in those areas. However, as mentioned in the report, more of the roles are positions such as business analysts, business developers and IT professionals.

“We still have many plans in place for the Pearl River Delta. As the economy slows, we may slow our hiring. But we plan to press forward with our regional initiative. Our direction is very clear,” said Peter Wong, an HSBC deputy chairman and chief executive for the Asia-Pacific region. “We are focused on long-term developments. We still have China behind our back. We are very optimistic regarding growth here in the region.”

The company has devised a three-year plan, in which they plan to reduce the number of full-time employees by between 22,000 and 25,000. In the United Kingdom, the bank may eliminate as many as 8,000 jobs.

HSBC is close to concluding an eight-month review into the best location for its headquarters, with Hong Kong seen as the leading candidate city. However, the lender is likely to stay based in London due to the vast logistics of relocating. Aberdeen is one of the British bank’s biggest shareholders.

Meanwhile, HSBC is facing some legal troubles, and it recently lost its appeal against the launch of a formal investigation in France into allegations it helped customers dodge taxes. The bank was put under formal investigation last year on suspicions that the parent did not exercise sufficient controls on the activities of its Swiss private bank in 2006 and 2007.

“We are disappointed by the outcome of the appeals procedure,” HSBC said in a statement. “We will continue to defend ourselves vigorously.”

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