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HSBC Singapore will not be affected by layoffs this year

HSBC Singapore will not be affected this year by the bank’s planned global redundancies that would impact 35,000 staff in the medium term, according to sources close to the matter.

A spokesperson from HSBC Singapore told The Business Times that the Republic remains a growth market for HSBC, and it will continue to hire talent to push ahead with its ambition to be “the leading international bank”.

Its earlier plans to add more than 400 retail and private banking front-end staff here by 2023 also remains on track, said HSBC Singapore.

“Since 2018, HSBC Singapore has grown its headcount by 10 per cent and has invested in our premises, digital capability and propositions in order to grow our customer base and market share,” said the spokesperson. “These investments and growth ambitions will continue.”

Singapore’s fate is a stark contrast to the rest of HSBC’s markets outside Asia, which face more gloomy prospects.

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HSBC had confirmed on Wednesday that it is resuming its restructuring exercise to cut costs after putting it on hold for the past few months due to the pandemic.

"We could not pause the job losses indefinitely - it was always a question of 'not if, but when'," wrote chief executive Noel Quinn, in a memo sent to the bank’s 235,000 staff globally.

He also wrote that the bank will maintain a freeze on almost all external recruitment.

HSBC had said in April that it will postpone the layoffs as it did not want to leave staff in the lurch during the Covid-19 pandemic. But with the outbreak still ongoing, it seems that the bank could not wait any longer.

The restructuring plan to axe 35,000 jobs was first unveiled in February, where HSBC also announced the merger of its private banking and wealth business, and the overhaul of its US and European businesses.

In its latest quarter, the bank saw its first-quarter profit plunge by almost half to US$3.2 billion as it was hit by bad loan provisions on the back of the pandemic. Revenue also fell 5 per cent to US$13.7 billion, with more pressure going forward.

However, the HSBC Singapore spokesperson noted that the bank is seeing “results” in Singapore as past investments start to bear fruit.

In particular, wealth assets under management for the core consumer banking business in Singapore has recorded its fastest growth in the past eight years and private banking net new money has tripled in the past two years. The two businesses have also recorded a 36 per cent year-on-year increase in profits before tax in 2019.

In August last year, HSBC chairman Mark Tucker told the media during its half-year results briefing that Singapore is a market that the bank wanted to gain scale in.

“Singapore is one of the eight strategic countries that we are investing in, we are putting focus and support to and remains key to our overall Asian and South-east Asian ambition. So Singapore is very much part of the future, part of the growth of the group,” he had said.

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