The chief executive of HSBC has said Britain’s biggest bank will wait as a long as possible before shifting jobs out of London as a result of Brexit but warned that continued uncertainty could curtail foreign investment in the UK.
Stuart Gulliver said that a transition arrangement, which industry groups have said needs to be in place by the end of the year, needed to contain clarity about the UK’s future relationship with the remaining 27 members of the EU to reassure overseas investors. “What [we’re] really keen to have is clarity. A transition with clarity would start investment again,” said Gulliver.
Speaking as the bank reported a 41% rise in profits in the first nine months of the year, Gulliver said HSBC would wait as long as possible before moving jobs to its Paris operations.
A year ago profits had been held back by the loss on the sale of its Brazilian operation.
In the run-up to the June 2016 EU referendum he said 1,000 UK-based investment banking roles could move to France in the event of a vote to leave.
However, on Monday Iain Mackay, the finance director, said up to 1,000 could transfer to Paris. Last week Swiss bank UBS also appeared to reduce the number of UK-based staff that could be impacted by Brexit.
But Gulliver said that the bank had not seen any negative impact from its business clients so far and that clarity on a deal could restart investment in the UK.
Gulliver will leave HSBC in February after 37 years – the last six as chief executive – and be replaced by John Flint, who has been at the bank for nearly 30 years.
He is in the final phase of a plan to shrink the bank’s global presence, shed 25,000 jobs and pivot towards Asia and said the bank’s nine-month profits of nearly $15bn (£11bn) reflected this strategy.
Two-thirds of the profits are generated in Asia although HSBC is headquarted in London.
His tenure coincided with the investigation by the Guardian and other publications into leaked files showing its Swiss arm helped customers avoid tax.
The bank’s attempts to comply with financial crime rules has left it facing criticism from small-business customers who have had their accounts closed down.
Gulliver admitted that 50 customers had been compensated as a result of the bank’s errors during this period and that 200 out of 1 million business customers had their accounts closed after the bank asked for information about their overseas payments.
Gulliver said the bank was responding to enquiries from the Financial Conduct Authority and authorities in South Africa prompted by warnings from former Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain of any possible links to South Africa’s corruption inquiry into alleged ties between the wealthy Gupta family and the president, Jacob Zuma.
The bank is also setting up a UK headquarters in Birmingham to comply with rules requiring it to ringfence its high street operations from its investment banking arm. After initial problems attracting staff, 90% of the roles had now been filled.