After surprising market observers with the scale of its cost-cutting plans on Monday, the London-based banking giant came back hours later with the clarification that it intends to continue to grow its business in such markets as Asia, which accounted for a significant percentage of its pre-tax profits in the first six months of this year.
More than a third of the current, 300,000-strong global workforce of the bank – whose initials stand for Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation – are already based in Asia.
It was HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver who said the bank planned to exit as many as 20 countries and cut as many as 30,000 jobs by 2013, in an effort to slash costs. Gulliver made his comments as the bank reported its first-half results, the highlight of which was an $11.5bn pre-tax profit, a 3% gain on the same period a year earlier.
Later, an HSBC spokeswoman in Hong Kong was quoted by the Agence France-Presse news service there as clarifying Gulliver’s remarks by noting that the bank also planned to hire "three to five thousand people in emerging markets per year", making "around 15,000 in the next three years".
The clarification came in response to Gulliver’s explanation, during a press conference, that HSBC had not done a detailed assessment of the planned job cuts or hirings, but rather, that it was setting out "where we are going to restructure".
"Of course, that forward looking hiring will, to some extent, depend on GDP growth in those markets…but it is quite easy to see how one would be adding 3,000, 4,000, 5,000 a year in the emerging markets, coming back in the other direction" from the job cuts, Gulliver said. He later agreed that this could mean 3,000 or 4,000 hirings a year in the emerging markets in which HSBC was doing well.