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Europe's biggest bank will shed up to 50,000 workers on its 150th anniversary

HSBC could shift its base from the UK to Hong Kong.

Image: Kin Cheung/AP

Updated 13.56

SCANDAL-PLAGUED HSBC WILL cut its global workforce by up to 50,000 as it axes staff, sells off parts of its operations and weighs up permanently shifting its base to Asia.

The bank, Europe’s biggest by market capitalisation, has been considering ditching its London headquarters as it shifts its attention to China and other fast-growing Asian economies.

Its chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, said the bank was “adapting to structural changes in the operating climate” as it unveiled plans to cut up to 25,000 staff as it tried to trim between $4.5 billion and $5 billion from its costs before the end of 2017.

He confirmed up to 8,000 jobs in Britain would be axed as part of the changes, which also included 25,000 workers going under a plan to offload its operations in Turkey and Brazil.

HSBC’s retail bank would also be rebranded and shifted from London to Birmingham by 2019. The total headcount reduction would represent almost 20% of its workforce.

It is not known how many of the bank’s estimated 400 workers in Ireland are facing the axe.

Job cuts at HSBC Source: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Scandals

HSBC has been hit with a string of scandals in recent years, including revelations the bank’s Swiss arm helped wealthy clients including politicians, celebrities and suspected criminals evade taxes.

The so-called “Swissleaks” files of secret accounts included 358 with links to Ireland, although Revenue has said only 33 of those cases were worth investigating. Those probes have yielded about €4.5 million in back-taxes, interest and penalties.

Last year HSBC was also fined a total of over €500 million in the UK and US as one of six international banks caught rigging foreign exchange markets.

There have already been swingeing jobs cuts at the bank since Gulliver joined as the company’s head in early 2011, while a review into where it would be based was due to be finished later this year.

289197722_9386e4afc8_b Source: Philip Choi

The bank has complained about the cost of regulation and taxes in the UK, and it has been tipped to move to the low-tax Hong Kong, where it was established in 1865.

Banking analyst Francis Lun said HSBC “may have overdone it” with the planned job cuts as there was a risk there wouldn’t be enough remaining workers to run the bank’s operations properly.

However he said Asia could prove a friendlier environment for the bank as European and US regulators still wanted to “get even” with lenders after the financial crisis.

There’s no future for major international banks in Europe and America, no matter how much money you make or save.”

- With AFP

First published 10.57am

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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