Tuesday , April 20 2021

HSBC sees its future with 40% less office space post Covid-19

Bloomberg

HSBC Holdings Plc said it expects to eventually shrink its property footprint by 40%, the latest sign of how the pandemic is changing the role of the office.
Europe’s largest bank would reduce its “real estate footprint” over the long term, Group Chief Operating Officer John Hinshaw said in a call with analysts after bank reported fourth-quarter results.
Last year’s abrupt shift to remote working has sparked a debate across industries about future demand for office space. HSBC’s potential reduction would be one of the most dramatic proposed changes seen so far from a major lender.
“The Covid-19 outbreak taught us many roles can be undertaken effectively outside of our branches and offices, accelerating our focus on enabling greater flexibility in future working arrangements,” HSBC said in its 2020 annual report.
About 85% of HSBC’s employees are now able to work from home, the bank said. At certain times last year, up to 70% of HSBC’s 226,059-strong workforce were working remotely with the lender distributing more than 78,000 laptops and other items to employees to enable them to work remotely. The bank said it expects to see a “much greater degree of hybrid working,” as the pandemic is brought under control.
“We expect a change in the way we use our office space, recognising the work-life balance and environmental benefits of hybrid working arrangements,” HSBC said in its annual report. It said it had made impairments on “certain real estate assets” in 2020.
Some rivals have already made sweeping changes. Standard Chartered Plc said last year that about half its staff will be able to apply for some form of hybrid work from early 2021. It plans to offer flexible work options to more than 90% of its 85,000 staff over three years.
Skeptics of this trend include BlackRock Inc.’s Larry Fink and JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Jamie Dimon, who has said that working remotely for too long could decrease productivity. Barclays Plc’s Jes Staley said last week he expects his largely homebound bankers to return to their offices this year.
HSBC flags $6 billion investment in Asia
HSBC Holdings Plc will shift billions of dollars of investment from developed markets to Asia’s faster growing economies as it looks to become the go-to bank for the region’s wealthy.
Announcing full-year profits that beat analysts’ estimates, Europe’s largest bank said it would spend more than $6 billion over the next five years to expand its Asian operations, in particular its wealth management arm. It will scale back some of its investment bank.
Adjusted pretax profit slid 50% to $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with a $1.8 billion estimate, the bank said. HSBC will resume paying a dividend of $0.15 after British regulators relaxed a ban intended to preserve capital last year after the virus outbreak.
The bank said it expected Asia’s share of group capital to rise from about 42% to more than half the total within the next years, a move that is likely to be accompanied by the relocation of several of the company’s top executives from London to Hong Kong.
“It’s logical to have more of the management team down there,” Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Fifty percent of our revenues, and the bulk of our profits, now come from Asia and certainly the thrust of our growth aspirations are in Asia.”
The changes were less dramatic than some analysts anticipated with the bank largely sticking to cost cutting plans that will reduce its workforce by about 35,000. HSBC said it intended to resume dividend payments, though not at the same level as in the past due to its investment plans and the continuing cost of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Analysts at Jefferies said the strategy looked “a bit dull in our view” and pointed to the lack of anything “concrete” in terms of the future of its retail businesses in France and the US.
Shares were down 2% at 8:30 am in London. Shares in HSBC had risen as much as 6% in Hong Kong on the back of the announcement before paring gains.
Quinn said in a statement that the bank had a “solid financial performance in the context of the pandemic – particularly in Asia,” which lays “firm foundations for our future growth.”
The bank outlined plans to invest about $6 billion in Asia, including $3.5 billion targeted for its wealth business, which is expected to hire more than 5,000 new wealth planners over the next three to five years. The investment comes at the expense of HSBC’s global banking and markets division, which houses its investment banking operations.
“We are essentially reducing the amount of capital we have invested in our global banking and markets business globally and reinvesting that capital into wealth and commercial banking,” said Quinn, speaking in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.
“Much of our global banking and markets business in the US and Europe were low-return businesses, so you could assume that that capital is coming out of global banking and markets, principally Continental Europe and the US, in order to fund the investment in capital we are making into wealth and commercial banking, primarily in Asia, but also in the Middle East.”
The bank hopes commercial banking and markets will drive “double-digit growth in profit.” It singled out markets in southeast Asia such as Singapore, as well as China and Hong Kong.
China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has increasingly forced HSBC to accept criticism from the U.S. and UK as a cost of doing business in the region. Quinn was summoned to testify to British lawmakers this month over the lender’s decision to close the accounts of an exiled Hong Kong democracy activist.
Expected credit losses last year hit $8.8 billion, as expected at the low end of a previously announced range of $8 billion to $13 billion. It now expects them to be materially lower this year.
The bank is targeting getting its cost base down to $31 billion or less in 2022 as well as a $100 billion reduction in gross risk-weighted assets. It doesn’t expect to reach a return on average tangible equity target of between 10% and 12% in 2022, but will now target a return of 10% or above in the medium term.
HSBC said it’s in talks on selling its French retail bank and is likely to post a loss on any divestment. It’s exploring “strategic options” for its U.S. retail franchise and wants to focus on high-net worth clients. HSBC has one of the largest U.S. businesses of any non-American bank, partly a result of its ill-fated acquisition of Household International in 2003, the subprime lender that ended up costing the company billions of dollars in writedowns.

HSBC flags $6 billion investment in Asia
Bloomberg

HSBC will shift billions of dollars of investment from developed markets to Asia’s faster growing economies as it looks to become the go-to bank for region’s wealthy.
Announcing full-year profits that beat analysts’ estimates, Europe’s largest bank said it would spend more than $6 billion over next five years to expand its Asian operations, in particular its wealth management arm. It will scale back some of its investment bank.
Adjusted pretax profit slid 50% to $2.2 billion in the fourth quarter, compared with a $1.8 billion estimate, the bank said. HSBC will resume paying a dividend of $0.15 after British regulators relaxed a ban intended to preserve capital last year after virus outbreak.
The bank said it expected Asia’s share of group capital to rise from 42% to more than half the total within the next years, a move that is accompanied by the relocation of several of the company’s top executives from London to Hong Kong.
“It’s logical to have more of the management team down there,” Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “Fifty percent of our revenues, and the bulk of our profits, now come from Asia and certainly the thrust of our growth aspirations are in Asia.”
The changes were less dramatic than some analysts anticipated with the bank largely sticking to cost cutting plans that will reduce its workforce by about 35,000. HSBC said it intended to resume dividend payments, though not at the same level as in the past due to its investment plans and the continuing cost of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Analysts at Jefferies said the strategy looked “a bit dull in our view” and pointed to the lack of anything “concrete” in terms of the future of its retail businesses in France and the US.
Shares were down 2% at 8:30 am in London. Shares in HSBC had risen as much as 6% in Hong Kong on the back of the announcement before paring gains.
Quinn said in a statement that the bank had a “solid financial performance in the context of the pandemic – particularly in Asia,” which lays “firm foundations for our future growth.”
The bank outlined plans to invest about $6 billion in Asia, including $3.5 billion targeted for its wealth business, which is expected to hire more than 5,000 new wealth planners over the next three to five years. The investment comes at the expense of HSBC’s global banking and markets division, which houses its investment banking operations.
“We are essentially reducing the amount of capital we have invested in our global banking and markets business globally and reinvesting that capital into wealth and commercial banking,” said Quinn, speaking in a telephone interview with Bloomberg.
“Much of our global banking and markets business in the US and Europe were low-return businesses, so you could assume that that capital is coming out of global banking and markets, principally Continental Europe and the US, in order to fund the investment in capital we are making into wealth and commercial banking, primarily in Asia, but also in the Middle East.”
The bank hopes commercial banking and markets will drive “double-digit growth in profit.” It singled out markets in southeast Asia such as Singapore, as well as China and Hong Kong.
China’s crackdown on Hong Kong has increasingly forced HSBC to accept criticism from the U.S. and UK as a cost of doing business in the region. Quinn was summoned to testify to British lawmakers this month over the lender’s decision to close the accounts of an exiled Hong Kong democracy activist.
Expected credit losses last year hit $8.8 billion, as expected at the low end of a previously announced range of $8 billion to $13 billion. It now expects them to be materially lower this year.
The bank is targeting getting its cost base down to $31 billion or less in 2022 as well as a $100 billion reduction in gross risk-weighted assets. It doesn’t expect to reach a return on average tangible equity target of between 10% and 12% in 2022, but will now target a return of 10% or above in the medium term.
HSBC said it’s in talks on selling its French retail bank and is likely to post a loss on any divestment. It’s exploring “strategic options” for its U.S. retail franchise and wants to focus on high-net worth clients. HSBC has one of the largest U.S. businesses of any non-American bank, partly a result of its ill-fated acquisition of Household International in 2003, the subprime lender that ended up costing the company billions of dollars in writedowns.

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