How to keep your job safe at HSBC in Asia as the bank cuts 4,000 staff

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HSBC is swinging its axe globally. About 2% of its workforce – or about 4,000 people – are set to depart this year as HSBC seeks to reduce costs. Expensive senior staff in the Global Banking and Markets division are expected to bear the brunt of the  cuts. Meanwhile in Asia, where HSBC made 79% of its pre-tax profits in the first half of 2019, the bank is closely monitoring the potential impact of US-China trade tensions and civil unrest in Hong Kong, according to its H2 financial report.

But there was some good news in Asia in the first half – regional revenue was up 9% year-on-year, “driven by strong performance in Hong Kong, the Pearl River Delta and Singapore”. If you work for HSBC in Hong Kong or Singapore, you’ll want to take advantage of this growth and avoid the upcoming redundancies. Where are the safest HSBC jobs in Asia? The bank’s results provide some clues.


HSBC increased spending on “digital capabilities” during the first half, a key part of an overall 17% year-on-year rise in investments to $2.2bn, according to its H2 results. Meanwhile, the bank’s headcount increase of 2,468 from end-December 2018 was partly driven by digital hiring. It’s likely that Hong Kong would have been a beneficiary of these new technology roles, because HSBC uses the city as a global hub for digital projects.

What kind of skills might get you a technology job at HSBC? The report hints at a few. In global liquidity and cash management, for example, HSBC improved “real-time payment capabilities”, while in securities services it invested in robotic process automation. Developers working on mobile platforms appear to be particularly in demand at HSBC – during the first half they “introduced over 90 new features” to improve online and mobile banking. HSBC’s Hong Kong-based PayMe app continues to attract new users – it had 1.6m accounts at the end of June.

Wealth management

HSBC announced last  September that it wants to add more than 1,300 jobs in Asian wealth management – mainly positions based in Hong Kong and Singapore. This hiring appears to have started. “Strategic initiatives to grow the wealth management business in Asia” helped operating expenses rise 6% year-on-year in the first half, according to the bank’s H2 earnings report. The new recruits have joined at an opportune time. Asian pre-tax profits in HSBC’s Retail Wealth Management division reached $3,680m in H2, a rise of 14%.

Transaction banking

Jobs within HSBC’s Global Banking and Markets division aren’t all about trading and investment banking – the unit also contains some more mundane (but far more stable) transaction banking functions. In global liquidity and cash management, for example, revenues were up 12% to $1,387m, primarily from the impact of higher interest rates, notably in Hong Kong.

Commercial banking

If you have a commercial banking job at HSBC in Hong Kong, you’re probably feeling comforted by the fact that your new interim CEO, Noel Quinn, was head of commercial banking for Asia Pacific between 2011 and 2015, based in Hong Kong. You’re likely also pleased with your division’s regional performance – pre-tax profits rose 6% year-on-year to $2,338m in the first half of 2019.

Belt and Road

If you want to move into an expansionist part of HSBC, you may want to try the Belt and Road (B&R) team, part of the firm’s Commercial Banking business. In its H2 results, HSBC reiterated that B&R is one of its “strategic priorities” as it aims to be the number-one international bank for B&R business by the end of 2020. HSBC has been hiring China-desk bankers in markets, including Hong Kong, which are likely to benefit from China’s $900bn B&R global infrastructure initiative. The bank has opened new China desks in Thailand, Macau, Poland and Luxembourg, taking its total to 24. It faces strong competition, however – JP Morgan and Citi are also beefing up in B&R

Policy secondment jobs

Interestingly, HSBC’s longstanding investment in China’s Bank of Communications (BoCom) has led to a “technical cooperation and exchange programme” being set up. This in turn has resulted in “a number of HSBC staff” being “seconded to assist in the maintenance of BoCom’s financial and operating policies”.

Image credit: fazon1, Getty

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