HSBC still growing in Singapore even as it resumes global job cuts

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

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.

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 in Singapore.

HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn told the bank's 235,000 staff around the world yesterday that it will maintain a freeze on almost all external recruitment, Reuters reported.

In February, the bank had announced plans to cut 35,000 jobs, US$4.5 billion (S$6.3 billion) in costs and US$100 billion of assets, while accelerating investments 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 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, he said, adding that he had asked senior executives to look at ways to cut costs in the second half of the year, said Reuters.

Most of the job cuts are likely to be 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 causing the lender to set aside US$3 billion in bad loan provisions in its first-quarter earnings, the news 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 eight markets where the lender wants to expand.

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

The bank has also been upgrading branches and premises in 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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 18, 2020, with the headline 'HSBC still growing in Singapore even as it resumes global job cuts'. Subscribe