HSBC

HSBC signals mass job cuts as profits plunge

HSBC set to axe around 35,000 jobs as it announced profits for 2019 fell by 33 per cent.

In Summary

• It said the fall in profits was mainly due to $7.3bn in write-offs related to its investment and commercial banking operations in Europe.

• Some of the cutbacks will extend to HSBC's European and US investment banking businesses.

Image: GETTY IMAGES

HSBC has said it will axe around 35,000 jobs as it announced profits for 2019 fell by 33%.

The bank said it was targeting $4.5bn (£3.5bn) of cost cuts by 2022 as part of a major restructuring.

Noel Quinn, interim chief executive, said HSBC would scale back its headcount from 235,000 to around 200,000 over the next three years.

HSBC, which makes the bulk of its revenue in Asia, reported annual profit before tax of $13.35bn (£10.3bn).

It said the fall in profits was mainly due to $7.3bn in write-offs related to its investment and commercial banking operations in Europe.

The 35,000 job losses are deeper than expected and represent about 15% of the workforce. Analysts had expected a figure of around 10,000 job cuts.

The bank currently operates in more than 50 countries across North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It employs more than 40,000 people in the UK.

Some of the cutbacks will extend to HSBC's European and US investment banking businesses.

"I think they were too optimistic about their chances of their success in investment banking," Peter Hahn, banking expert and former dean of the London Institute of Banking & Finance, told the BBC's Today programme.

"The reality is that the biggest investment market in the world is the US, and if you're not big in the US in investment banking it's pretty tough to succeed in that business - and they're not."

The strategy overhaul comes as economic growth is slowing in HSBC's major markets. Asia now accounts for about half of HSBC's revenue and 90% of profits.

The bank is also facing the impact of the coronavirus, the UK's protracted withdrawal from the European Union and historically low interest rates around the world. It will be the UK-based bank's third overhaul in a decade as it attempts to lift its profits.

Mr Quinn told Reuters that the restructuring would mean "that our headcount is likely to go from 235,000 to closer to 200,000 over the next three years".

The 57-year-old HSBC veteran was appointed interim chief executive in August last year following the ousting of John Flint. HSBC reiterated that it expects to make a permanent appointment within the next six to 12 months.

Addressing the impact of coronavirus, HSBC said the full effect had not been fully accounted for in its latest earnings, raising the possibility that it could increase the amount it expects the outbreak to cost the bank.

HSBC will also reduce the assets it owns by more than $100bn by the end of 2022 as part of sweeping reforms