HSBC cost-cutting to affect 10,000 staff, but carries on investing in SG

HSBC is reportedly implementing a cost-cutting scheme named "Project Oak" that may threaten 10,000 jobs, according to media outlets such as ST and FT. HSBC has about 238,000 full-time employees worldwide, and operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines within Southeast Asia.

The scheme involves encouraging executives and managers to shrink their teams by offering funding from a central pot of money to cover redundancy payouts, said the reports. The cost-cutting exercise is speculated to be announced in the bank's third quarter financial results later this month. However, HSBC will reportedly continue to hire “revenue-generating” staff in high-growth regions in Asia, where it generates nearly 80% of its profits.

HSBC has declined to comment on the speculations and its marketing headcount.

In a media call following HSBC’s half-year results in August, HSBC chairman Mark Tucker said Singapore is "part of the future, part of the growth of the group.” He explained that Singapore is one of the eight strategic countries that the bank is investing in, and is putting focus and support to and remains key to its overall Asian and Southeast Asian ambition. The other seven countries are Malaysia, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Mexico, Pearl River Delta, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.

Similar sentiments were echoed by the bank’s chief financial officer, Ewen Stevenson when it announced a global lay-off of 4,700. Severance costs were said to range from US$650 million to US$700 million. Stevenson said in a call with analysts that HSBC will be adding headcount where it sees good growth and good returns such as "various parts of Asia and Hong Kong". He also added that “most areas of the bank" have been involved in the manpower reduction.

In the same month, its group chief executive and director of HSBC Holdings John Flint stepped down, prompting Noel Quinn to be appointed as interim group chief executive and a director of HSBC Holdings. Prior to his departure, Flint has warned of "heightened economic uncertainty globally" in the company's first quarter results for 2019 and said it will be proactively managing costs and investment in line with the outlook. According to the interim financial report for the first half of 2019, revenue in Asia is up 7% compared to the same period last year. Reported lending in Asia went up 5% compared to the end of 2018.