HSBC relocates top leadership from London to Hong Kong

HSBC will move four of its top executives to Hong Kong from London, one more than had been anticipated, as the bank continues to accelerate its strategic shift to Asia.

In an internal memo on Wednesday, chief executive Noel Quinn said that Greg Guyett, co-head of global banking and markets, Nuno Matos, chief executive of wealth and personal banking, and Barry O’Byrne, chief executive of global commercial banking, would relocate in the second half of the year.

HSBC had signalled earlier this year that the executives were likely to head to Hong Kong, the 156-year-old lender’s historic base. They will be joined by Nicolas Moreau, head of asset management, whose departure from London had not previously been reported.

Relocating those four executives means that divisions that account for almost all of HSBC’s global revenue will be run out of Hong Kong. The decision also has symbolic importance considering the bank’s delicate geopolitical position, caught amid escalating tensions between the west and China as they face off over the future of Hong Kong.

“These moves underscore the importance of the Asia-Pacific region . . . [which is] central to our future growth,” Quinn said in the email, which was seen by the Financial Times. “An important part of our global strategy is to base more of our leadership population in Asia.”

As part of a strategy revamp in February, Quinn promised he would “move the heart of the business to Asia, including leadership”, while unveiling a deeper cull of underperforming operations in Europe and the US.

Nicolas Moreau, head of HSBC’s asset management business, is one of four top executives relocating to Hong Kong © Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

HSBC has been under pressure from investors to show faster progress in reshaping its sprawling global network, which has 226,000 staff and operations in 60 countries, after 2020 pre-tax profit plunged 45 per cent to $12.1bn amid the coronavirus pandemic and ultra-low interest rates.

Quinn’s latest plans, which include $6bn of new investment in Hong Kong, China and Singapore and sales of the French and US retail branch networks, are intended to galvanise an earlier overhaul announced in 2020 that aims to redeploy more than $100bn of capital to Asia and slash 35,000 jobs.

HSBC has made expanding in wealth and asset management a priority in the region — particularly China, Singapore and India — and has pledged to invest $3.5bn and hire more than 5,000 wealth advisers.

Despite the executive job moves, Quinn was careful to emphasise the continued importance of London. For years, rumours have swirled that the bank would move its headquarters from the UK — a proposal it reviewed and rejected in 2015. Those rumours have only been exacerbated by Brexit and geopolitics.

“We expect that some roles that work directly with Barry, Greg and Nuno will relocate with them to Hong Kong, but most will remain where they are currently based,” he said in the memo. “Beyond that, we are not planning any large-scale movement of jobs from London to Hong Kong.”

“We remain fully committed to the UK, both in terms of our domicile and our significant businesses and client base in the country,” he added. “These moves have no impact on the location of our headquarters”, top executives, or board, which he pledged would remain in London.

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