HSBC still growing in Singapore even as bank restarts plan to axe 35,000 jobs globally

HSBC is resuming its plans to cut about 35,000 jobs worldwide in the medium term as part of a major overhaul it had announced earlier this year.
HSBC is resuming its plans to cut about 35,000 jobs worldwide in the medium term as part of a major overhaul it had announced earlier this year.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE – HSBC is resuming plans to cut around 35,000 jobs over the medium term as part of a major overhaul the bank announced earlier this year. But there will be no redundancies in Singapore this year, The Straits Times understands.

A spokesman said Singapore remains one of its growth markets. 

“Since 2018, HSBC Singapore has grown its headcount by 10 per cent and has invested in our premises, digital capability and propositions in order to grow our customer base and market share. These investments and growth ambitions will continue,” he said.

The lender has about 3,500 staff here.

HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn told the bank’s 235,000 staff around the world on Wednesday (June 17)  that it will maintain a freeze on almost all external recruitment, Reuters reported. 

The bank had announced plans in February to cut 35,000 jobs, US$4.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) in costs and US$100 billion of assets while accelerating investment in Asia. But in March it paused the vast majority of the planned redundancies because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We could not pause the job losses indefinitely – it was always a question of ‘not if, but when’,” said Mr Quinn, adding that the measures first announced in February "are even more necessary today.”

The bank now has to resume the cuts as profits fall and economic forecasts point to a challenging time ahead, Mr Quinn said, adding that he had asked senior executives to look at ways to cut costs in the second half of the year, according to Reuters.

 
 
 

The bulk of the job cuts are likely in the back office at Global Banking and Markets, which houses HSBC’s investment banking and trading, a senior executive familiar with the plans told Reuters.

HSBC shares have fallen 27 per cent since the start of March, with the pandemic prompting the lender to set aside US$3 billion in bad loan provisions in its first quarter earnings, the wire agency added.

Mr Quinn, who was appointed group CEO in March, has said in investor calls that Singapore is a growth and investment market for the bank.

It is one of only eight markets globally where the lender wants to grow scale.

In 2018, HSBC Singapore earmarked an increase of 400 customer-facing roles as part of its plan to double its wealth business over five years.

It has also been upgrading branches and premises over the past two years and became the anchor tenant of Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 2 in April.

Last year, it added several senior hires to its team.