HSBC delays plans to cut 35,000 jobs in face of coronavirus

Pedro Gonçalves
HSBC delays plans to cut 35,000 jobs in face of coronavirus

HSBC is to delay thousands of job cuts planned as part of a massive overhaul announced in February because of the "extraordinary impact" of the coronavirus pandemic, the bank has announced internally.

In a memo to all staff on Thursday, seen by International Investment, Noel Quinn wrote that the bank had decided to "pause, for the time being, the vast majority of redundancies associated with this [restructuring] programme".

In addition, plans to exit unprofitable client relationships may need to be shelved during a period when regulators are calling on banks to help firms hit by Covid-19. HSBC is also hesitant about ditching clients without meeting them face-to-face - something which the virus is preventing.

HSBC [will] pause, for the time being, the vast majority of redundancies associated with this [restructuring] programme"

In February, with profits plunging, HSBC announced plans to slash 35,000 jobs and reduce the size of its branch network by a third as part of an effort to cut costs by $4.5bn a year by the end of 2022.

Quinn, who took over from John Flint as interim CEO in August, was appointed to the top job permanently last week. The announcement comes just over a month after Quinn announced the third major overhaul for the lender in a decade.

HSBC, which is based in London but generates most its revenue in Asia, also said it would freeze hiring except for a "small number of frontline and business-critical roles and those already with written offers."

HSBC is not alone. Other global banks such as UBS, BNP Paribas, and Deutsche Bank are also under pressure to reverse planned job cuts and massive restructuring plans in the face of the global pandemic.

Morgan Stanley and Citigroup also joined European lenders in pledging to preserve jobs amid the widespread impact of the coronavirus. Citigroup will suspend any planned job cuts, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Morgan Stanley chief executive officer James Gorman told employees in a memo that the bank will not trim the workforce this year. "I am sure some, if not many, of you are worried about your jobs," Gorman wrote.

"While long term we can't be sure how this will play out, we want to commit to you that there will not be a reduction in force at Morgan Stanley in 2020. Aside from a performance issue or a breach of the code of conduct, your jobs are secure."

Wells Fargo, the firm with the biggest workforce among US banks, also suspended job cuts.

Credit Suisse CEO Thomas Gottstein said that the Swiss bank will not announce any lay-offs because of the virus, while Commerzbank and Société Générale may slow the pace of cuts.

However, Bloomberg reported Royal Bank of Scotland group chief CEO Alison Rose is sticking to her plans to slash the bank's markets business.


Subscribe to International Investment's free, twice-daily, newsletter