HSBC’s long-running review into where to locate its headquarters is finally coming to a close, according to a report in the Telegraph.
The bank is reviewing whether or not to leave the UK, as it tries to cope with increasing regulatory and tax demands. A decision could be reached as soon as this week, according to the report.
The bank, one of the world’s largest by assets, has considered Hong Kong, the US and Canada in its list of new homes.
However, board members are leaning towards staying in the UK, The Telegraph said.
As a lobbying technique, threatening to leave the UK has been powerful. Banks have already won several big concessions from the Treasury and Bank of England on controversial new rules and taxes.
The Treasury watered down the so-called senior managers regime, which was designed to make top bankers prove they did everything they could to prevent bad conduct at their firm. The wording of the rule was changed from the “presumption” of guilt for executives to a “duty of responsibility” last year.
HSBC will have a hard time finding the perfect spot.
While the US has a different accounting regime, which might make it easier for a big bank like HSBC to meet rules limiting the amount of debt that banks can take on, the country has fined HSBC billions for sanctions and money-laundering breaches.
Hong Kong had been high on HSBC’s list of jurisdictions but the Chinese government’s heavy-handed response to stock market crashes last year may have made it less attractive.
Also, according to a Reuters analysis, a Hong Kong move wouldn’t save HSBC a huge amount of tax, and possibly worsen the burden by increasing the amount of profits booked in the UK which are eligible for a higher tax rate.