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HSBC plan to axe 35,000 jobs leaves top investors disappointed


A radical overhaul at HSBC which see 35,000 jobs axed does not go far enough, shareholders have said.

The cuts by interim boss Noel Quinn are part of a battle to slash HSBC’s costs by $4.5bn (£3.5bn) and scale back drastically in the US and Europe to focus on growth in Asia.

Analysts are predicting 15,000 roles will go in Britain alone, many of them at the lender’s Canary Wharf headquarters nicknamed the “Tower of Doom” by some staff.

But investors said the proposals will not be enough to restore the troubled lender’s fortunes, and shares fell.

One of HSBC’s 20 largest shareholders dismissed the  job cull as “not that big a number” and argued there are “better and more advanced recovery stories [such as] Barclays or Standard Chartered”. 

Another major investor said that although the cost cuts are bigger than some were expecting, they suspect the market will “consider the prize insufficient”, while a third large backer said they were disappointed.

Mr Quinn, who became interim chief last summer after former boss John Flint was ousted, is battling to improve performance in the face of ultra-low interest rates across Europe and tough competition on Wall Street.

Finance chief Ewan Stevenson said there will be meaningful job cuts in the UK, particularly in HSBC’s banking and markets business.

He refused to put a figure on the number of positions at risk, but Investec analyst Ian Gordon said Britain could lose as many as 15,000 roles.

Staff union Unite called for an end to the banks “continual salami slicing of jobs” following the announcement.

Mr Quinn insisted that the job cut figure is not a set target, but guidance for the next three years. About 25,000 staff resign every year, suggesting many positions could be ditched by not replacing leavers rather than through redundancies.

Although London will remain a hub for investment banking, HSBC is shifting its structured products arm from the UK to Asia where it makes almost all of its profits. 

The major restructuring will involve merging HSBC’s retail banking, private banking and wealth management arms, hacking back its equity research division in Europe and pulling out of certain markets.

The bank is also considering exiting US retail banking, Mr Quinn said. 

HSBC did not announce a new chief executive alongside the overhaul.

Analysts said over the weekend that they suspected the board wanted to test the market reaction to Mr Quinn’s new strategy before making a decision. Shares closed down 6pc, wiping £7.2bn off the value of the bank.

Chairman Mark Tucker said the plan is essential regardless of who becomes chief executive, suggesting any external candidate would have to force through Mr Quinn’s strategy. 

HSBC also announced on Tuesday that its private banking boss António Simões, one of the lender’s best-known figures and previous head of its UK business, is leaving.    

Mr Quinn, a HSBC lifer who is popular internally but was relatively unknown outside until recently, told reporters that Brexit did not play a role in any of its strategic discussions. 

In what was framed as a “once in a generation” review in 2016, just before the outcome of the EU referendum, the board decided that bank’s headquarters should remain in the UK rather than going to Hong Kong. Insiders said a review is not on the cards. 

Mr Quinn has already made a number of changes in an attempt to show he can make tough choices and stand up to Mr Tucker.

Sources have said that some of HSBC’s best-paid bankers are among those facing the axe as he reviews a potential hit-list of those earning more than £1m a year. 


HSBC’s board is also battling growing concerns around coronavirus in China, where it is the largest foreign player in finance.

Last week it offered to ease borrowing terms for companies in Hong Kong, HSBC’s single biggest market and where it was founded in 1865.

Alongside its restructuring, which includes plans to shrink assets by $100bn, the bank reported a loss of $3.9bn for the fourth quarter and a one-third fall in annual pre-tax profit to $13.3bn. Insiders said bonuses in global banking slid about 16pc.

The bank also published its annual report, which showed that former chief Mr Flint is in line for up to £5.7m of shares after leaving.


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