LONDON — Bankers generating around a fifth of HSBC’s London revenue will move to Europe as a result of Brexit, CEO Stuart Gulliver said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.
“Specifically what will happen is those activities covered specifically by European financial regulation will need to move, looking at our own numbers — that’s about 20% of the revenue,” Gulliver told Bloomberg’s John Micklethwaite in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
HSBC has a base of European operations in Paris that would maintain full access to the European Union market once the UK leaves the EU and, very possibly, gives up its financial services passport.
Passporting rights allow UK-based financial firms to access clients across the continent via branches and many international firms are readying plans to counter their loss. London’s 328-year old insurance market, Lloyd’s of London, is also planning to move some of its operations to the continent in reaction to the UK’s Brexit vote.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa May outlined her negotiating stance for Brexit, which included a rejection of the single market and an end to the free movement of people, resulting in a so-called “hard Brexit.” This would also have the result of stripping the City of its passport.
Despite signalling jobs would move, Gulliver was upbeat on London’s continuing dominance as a European financial centre.
He said: “I think irrespective of Brexit which is a decision the British people have made so we need to get on and execute it that, actually London will remain a global financial centre, and I believe the revenue impact of Brexit on financial services will be made good in two or three years’ time.
“I don’t see the foreign exchange market moving, the investment grade bond market moving, the equity market moving and the high-yield bond market moving.”
Gulliver said around 1,000 bankers in HSBC’s investment banking and markets divisions would “probably need, in our case, to go to France.” But more concerning is the uncertainty around the future of foreign staff in the UK.
“So the bigger issue, as you say, is about EU nationals, because we have about 2,100 EU nationals working for us in the UK and we have about 1,300 non-EU nationals working for us in the UK under work permits, so the evolution of the work permit immigration policy is of considerable interest because, clearly, we want to be able to get the best possible people,” Gulliver said.
“But I don’t get any sense from the Prime Minister’s speech that she isn’t looking to create an environment where we can employ the best possible people from anywhere in the world in the UK.”
Gulliver was appointed HSBC CEO in 2010, just as tougher financial rules after the 2008 financial crisis were starting to bite. The bank has had to overhaul its structure and boost its capital in sometimes volatile trading conditions — actions which Gulliver said would form part of his “legacy,” when asked by Micklethwaite.
“I think it’s probably that we’ve completed one of the biggest restructurings, certainly in the post-war period, for HSBC,” Gulliver said. “Because we’ve sold 96 businesses, the firm has gone from 330,000 people down to 220,000, we’ve built the capital base up to 13.9%, we’ve continued to pay a dividend throughout that period of approximately $9 billion every single year.”