HSBC plans hundreds of investment bank job cuts

  • Business
  • Friday, 31 May 2019

Strategic plan: Private banking in Asia is one of HSBC’s priorities as Flint plans to expand in markets from Greater China to South-East Asia. — Reuters

London: HSBC Holdings Plc is considering eliminating hundreds of investment banking jobs as chief executive officer John Flint pressures the lender’s top managers to cut costs, according to sources.

At least 500 jobs could go within global banking and markets, although formal numbers have not been communicated, said the people who asked not to be named.

Greg Guyett, who recently took sole control of global banking, will be pushing through cuts in his part of the business, a source said.

The reductions are expected to begin at the unit as soon as mid-June and would take place over the year, according to the sources.

They are part of wider job reductions across the lender, and mark the latest stage of HSBC’s “Project Oak” revamp.

“Business and function lines constantly re-evaluate their needs to ensure they have the right roles in the right locations,” HSBC said in a statement.

Shares in the bank jumped to an intraday high after the news and were trading down in London.

Flint has made “positive jaws” – banking jargon for keeping the top line growing faster than expenses – a key focus as he seeks to put his stamp on the bank, which makes the bulk of its revenue in Asia.

The CEO berated his most senior managers in March for missing cost targets, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The unit known as GBM houses the lender’s corporate finance and trading operations, employing about 24,000 of the division’s total workforce of 48,500 which includes contractors and other support staff.

Project Oak’s job reductions should help the company’s goal of achieving positive jaws, as the cost incurred can be accounted for as a one-off item rather than counting toward HSBC’s overall cost base, one of the people said.

That’s a deliberate strategy to encourage aggressive reductions, as managers may have resisted making necessary cuts in the past to avoid the hit to their own budgets from costs such as severance payments, according to the source.

HSBC missed a full-year target to achieve an increase in revenues that outpaced the increase in costs.

That stepped up the pressure on Flint, who attacked “incompetence” at a Hong Kong event in March attended by about 400 managers, sources said earlier this year.

The bank met its positive jaws target in first-quarter numbers published this month.

In less than two years, as the stock price has remained mostly stagnant, HSBC has changed much of its top management.

Flint replaced Stuart Gulliver, Mark Tucker succeeded John Flint as chairman, and Robin Phillips, formerly Guyett’s co-head of banking, is exiting after more than a decade in senior roles.

Even as it cuts in some areas, the bank is expanding in others as it seeks growth opportunities. HSBC has been expanding in private banking in Asia and plans to add 700 jobs in the region by 2022. Private banking in Asia is one of HSBC’s strategic priorities as Flint plans to expand in markets from Greater China to South-East Asia. — Bloomberg

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