Despite global hiring and pay freeze by HSBC in 2016, bank still hiring in Hong Kong and Pearl River Delta

PUBLISHED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 7:25pm
UPDATED : Monday, 01 February, 2016, 7:25pm

Banking giant HSBC told staff a worldwide hiring and pay freeze is locked into place for this year, but a senior official said hirings in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta of China will continue despite the tough economic conditions and a slowing Chinese economy.

Six out of every 10 jobs HSBC is recruiting is neither located in Hong Kong or Shanghai but are to be found in the bank’s newly found base of Guangdong. It is still hiring for Hong Kong and Shanghai - but more of the roles are replacements focused on operations rather than for new business.

From its new Pearl River Delta base, the bank is now actively hiring for business analysts, business developers and IT professionals to set up its new businesses for its investment banking push to be developed under the securities license that it is in the process of application.

“We still have many plans in place for the Pearl River Delta. As the economy slows, we may slow our hiring. But we plan to press forward with our regional initiative. Our direction is very clear,” Peter Wong, deputy chairman and chief executive of HSBC Asia-Pacific, said.

“We are focused on long-term developments. We still have China behind our back. We are very optimistic regarding growth here in the region.”

The email on the hiring and pay freeze was sent to HSBC staff on Friday as the bank, which has struggled over the past few years from poor results and a protracted restructuring, sought to cut costs by up to US$5 billion by the end of 2017.

Wong said the bank is optimistic about business opportunities afforded by the One Belt One Road initiative of China, citing the examples of deals that its Hong Kong corporate clients which are coming to the first stage of fruition.

In June, HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver outlined a three-year plan to prune off money losing businesses and eliminate tens of thousands of jobs to boost the bank’s profitability.

HSBC’s moves are part of a wider trend in many lenders of freezing hirings and laying off thousands to bolster earnings hobbled by the global financial crisis which erupted in 2008, with regulators fining a number of banks, including HSBC, for breaching a number of rules.

Separately, Wong said the HSBC board has yet to make its final decision whether it will move its domicile from London back to its original headquarters in Hong Kong.

Spokeswomen at HSBC and its fully owned subsidiary Hang Seng Bank declined to further comment on both banks’ headcount targets or pay plans for the rest of the year. According to publicly available jobs data, HSBC appears to still be aggressively hiring within the region.

When asked of their Pearl Delta moves at the sidelines of the Asian Financial Forum two weeks ago, Helen Wong, greater China chief executive for the bank, said the availability of the details of its plan is still pending the regulatory approval of HSBC’s securities license.