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HSBC cuts bonuses and senior managers in strategy overhaul

The lender said on Tuesday it had cut its bonus pool for 2019 by 4% to reflect poor performance and warned its investment bank will take a hefty proportion of the around 35,000 job cuts it expects over the next three years - many at its headquarters in London's Canary Wharf financial centre.

Reuters|
Last Updated: Feb 18, 2020, 04.36 PM IST
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HSBC is cutting the number of regional executive roles from seven to four.
LONDON/HONG KONG: HSBC's management ranks face uncertainty over jobs and pay in the lender's most radical overhaul in years, as it seeks to slash nearly $5 billion in costs and prune its underperforming investment bank.

The lender said on Tuesday it had cut its bonus pool for 2019 by 4% to reflect poor performance and warned its investment bank will take a hefty proportion of the around 35,000 job cuts it expects over the next three years - many at its headquarters in London's Canary Wharf financial centre.

"There will be meaningful job cuts in the UK," Chief Financial Officer Ewen Stevenson said, adding they would be largely in the investment bank and senior management ranks based in the bank's London HQ.

Details of the rejig confirm what people with knowledge of the matter previously told Reuters, which reported on Feb. 5 that HSBC would seek to cull senior management ranks in a wide-ranging overhaul.

The bank is trying to curb costs at the top by combining oversight of business units and geographical regions into fewer roles, as part of a strategy unveiled on Tuesday along with its 2019 results.

Its investment banking business is a particular focus after seeing profits fall 9% in 2019. The unit has underperformed its commercial and retail banking counterparts in recent years, recording higher costs and a lower share of profits.

HSBC is cutting the number of regional executive roles from seven to four and is combining its retail wealth management and private banking divisions under the single oversight of former McKinsey and Accenture consultant Charlie Nunn.

The merger of the two units left no room for private banking head Antonio Simoes, once seen as a high flyer within the group and who was working towards achieving double-digit growth in client assets and revenue for the business.

Most Uncertainty
Facing the most job uncertainty of all the bank's remaining senior managers is the man at the top, with interim Chief Executive Noel Quinn yet to be confirmed in his role even as he presented the new strategy to investors on Tuesday.

"It seems perverse that the business currently has an interim CEO in charge ... just when it is launching a major restructuring," said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

Chairman Mark Tucker, however, said the selection process, which could run until August, is independent of the strategy changes announced by Quinn and Stevenson.

"The board is fully supportive of the plan the executive is announcing today," Tucker said.

Stevenson, cited in media reports in recent months as a contender for the top job and seen by some insiders as the guiding hand behind much of the bank's cost cutting, was best paid among top bosses in 2019 with 4.9 million pounds ($6.4 million).

That included nearly 2 million pounds in compensation forfeited when he left his previous job at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Quinn, who took over from John Flint following a shock ouster last August, took home 1.98 million pounds.

Employment union Unite, which represents nearly 20,000 HSBC staff mainly in Britain, said it has demanded urgent talks with the bank's management over the restructuring.

"Despite HSBC still making billions of dollars of profit, once again hardworking and dedicated staff have woken up to the news that their job could be at risk," said Unite national officer for finance Dominic Hook.

HSBC also said it is tying senior bankers' pay to its targets on cutting carbon emissions in response to growing investor concern about the financial sector's responsibility for combating climate change.

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