HSBC is moving top executives from London to Hong Kong

a man standing in front of a building: People stand in front of the HSBC Holdings Plc headquarters building, temporary closed due to the coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021. HSBC's main Hong Kong office was closed until further notice after three people working in the building tested positive for Covid-19 amid a renewed wave of infections among the citys business and expatriate community. Photographer: Chan Long Hei/Bloomberg via Getty Images

HSBC will move four of its most senior executives to Hong Kong later this year, as the London-based bank focuses more attention on fast-growing markets in Asia.

CEO Noel Quinn said in an internal memo on Wednesday that Barry O’Byrne, head of global commercial banking, Greg Guyett, co-head of global banking and markets, and Nuno Matos, head of wealth and personal banking will relocate to Hong Kong in the second half of the year. They will be joined by Nicolas Moreau, the head of global asset management. Those businesses account for virtually all of HSBC’s revenues.

“These moves underscore the importance of the Asia-Pacific region to our strategy,” Quinn said in the memo, which the bank provided to CNN Business. “I want more of our global executive team to be located in key growth regions, and Asia of course is central to our future growth, investment and innovation,” he added.

HSBC derives the vast majority of its profit from Asia, where it was founded 156 years ago as the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited. In February, it outlined plans to increase investment in the region by about $6 billion, highlighting China, southeast Asia, and India as the drivers of its future growth.

The bank will invest more than $3.5 billion over the next three to five years into wealth and asset management, hiring more than 5,000 wealth advisers and establishing Singapore as a wealth management hub.

But straddling the line between East and West is becoming increasingly challenging, as Beijing’s efforts to assert greater control over Hong Kong draw rebuke from countries such as the United Kingdom. HSBC faced a backlash from US and UK political leaders last year after it supported a controversial national security law in Hong Kong a move that appeared to be prompted by pressure from Chinese officials to demonstrate its commitment to the country.

The pivot to Asia is part of a strategic overhaul HSBC unveiled last year, which aims to redeploy more than $100 billion in capital to the region and slash 35,000 jobs.

HSBC is under pressure to accelerate its restructuring plans which also involve shrinking its investment bank and selling its US retail branch network after pre-tax profit slumped 45% to $12.1 billion last year amid the coronavirus pandemic and ultra-low interest rates.

Despite relocating senior executives, Quinn emphasized the continued importance of London in Wednesday’s memo and said the bank was not planning any “large scale” movement of jobs from the British capital to Hong Kong. HSBC most recently rejected a proposal to relocate its headquarters to Hong Kong in 2016.

“We remain fully committed to the UK, both in terms of our domicile and our significant businesses and client base in the country,” Quinn said.

“These moves have no impact on the location of our headquarters and the management and oversight of the group executive committee and holdings board, which will all continue to be UK-based,” he added.

Following Brexit, London faces a renewed threat to its dominance as an international financial center from Asian cities, including Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

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