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[HONG KONG] HSBC Holdings Plc plans to step up hiring in China for its retail and wealth business next year as the UK lender persists with its expansion there despite the country's economic slowdown and measures to stem capital outflows.
The bank increased the number of retail-bank employees in China's Pearl River Delta by 57 per cent in the 12 months to September, according to Kevin Martin, the firm's Asia-Pacific head of retail banking and wealth management.
The pace of hiring may accelerate in 2017 as the London-based lender expands in areas from mortgages to credit cards, personal lending and wealth services in the manufacturing hub north of Hong Kong, he said.
"We're exactly where we expected to be," Mr Martin said in an interview in Hong Kong on Friday, referring to his unit's growth in the delta region, which encompasses cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou. "Historically, our customers in Shenzhen were Shenzhen-Hong Kong customers. Now the Shenzhen customers stay in Shenzhen because we're building our local business as well as our cross-border business."
HSBC is starting its credit-card business in China on Monday after receiving regulatory approval to issue cards by itself, having previously done so in partnership with Bank of Communications Co. The UK bank is seeking to issue more than 3 million cards in the short to medium term and add "a handful more" branches across China next year, Mr Martin said.
The lender is trying to capture business from China's swelling ranks of affluent individuals even as economic growth slows and authorities take steps to curb outflows of yuan from the country and cool the property market.
Chief executive officer Stuart Gulliver said in February that HSBC will hire 4,000 employees mainly in the Pearl River Delta over five years instead of three as a result of the economic downturn. Retail banking and wealth management accounted for 36 per cent of the bank's Asian pretax profit in the third quarter, according to a stock exchange statement.
"Despite everything that's happened, we've done everything we said we would," Mr Martin said. "Retail business is a long-term business. We don't make decisions based on changing regulations on the day. It's the honest answer."