HSBC closes 62 more UK branches, but all Hong Kong outlets to stay open

Like many of its rivals, HSBC has been cutting branches to help cut costs at a time when growing numbers of customers are using online banking

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 10:55pm

HSBC is shutting 62 more British branches this year, meaning the bank will have closed 340 outlets across the country within the past two years.

But in a divergence of strategies between two of its most significant retail banking markets, the bank said it had no such plans in Hong Kong.

“While individual branches relocate from time-to-time, there is no programme of closures in Hong Kong,” insisted HSBC spokesperson Gareth Hewett.

The bank has about 100 branches and more than 300 standalone express bank centres in Hong Kong. It blamed the UK closures on the changing habits of its customers, adding HSBC will still have 625 branches in the country by 2018.

“More customers are using mobile and internet banking than ever before ... and fewer people are using branches. More than 90 per cent of our interactions with customers are now through our digital channels – an increase from 80 per cent last year,” said Francesca McDonagh, HSBC’s head of retail banking and wealth management for UK and Europe.

Last year HSBC halved its branch network in India, again citing the move to digital as an important factor in the decision.

While the lender is pursuing a digital strategy in Hong Kong, which includes digital peer-to-peer payments systems and virtual assistants for its corporate clients, these new initiatives have not led to a need to reduce its branch network here.

More customers are using mobile and internet banking than ever before ... and fewer people are using branches. More than 90 per cent of our interactions with customers are now through our digital channels – an increase from 80 per cent last year
Francesca McDonagh, HSBC’s head of retail banking and wealth management, UK and Europe

Across the board, branch networks in Hong Kong have remained broadly solid, though last June Bank of East Asia said that its brokerage business, East Asia Securities, would close its 22 retail outlets.

As has become standard practise, BEA too noted the vast the majority of its transactions were now being conducted via the internet or over the phone.

The new closures mean HSBC has shut more branches than any other major UK high street lender, but the closures are by no means unique.

Last week, the Yorkshire and Clydesdale bank group said that it would close 79 UK branches, and, in 2015 and 2016, more than 1,000 banks were closed across Britain according to consumer group Which?

Dominic Hook, national officer at UK’s largest trade union Unite said in a statement: “Unite is again calling on the banking industry to rethink such branch culling exercises, which do nothing to reassure customers or staff that banking is accessible and open to all.

“Without doubt customer service in financial services will suffer if our high streets are left with no local branches.”

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