HSBC to hire up to 3,000 wealth planners in China, despite global tensions and planned layoffs

August 4, 2020.

plans to hire as many as 3,000 wealth planners in mainland China, as the bank sharpens its focus on managing high-value Asian accounts, despite rising global human rights concerns over China’s treatment of Hong Kong. 

The London-based bank, with $2.9 trillion in total assets, declared plans to hire 2,000 to 3,000 wealth planners in Guangzhou and Shanghai within four years, in a presentation that accompanied its second-quarter earnings announcement on Monday. The wealth planners, who will join the 100 already working at those locations, will focus initially on “new-to-bank affluent clients in China.”

HSBC already does extensive business in Asia, with loans totaling $475 billion, and first-half, before-tax profits of $7.4 billion on the continent. Business in Asia helped buoy the bank through a rough second quarter, in which profits dropped 82.4% to $1.1 billion. 

The bank is forging ahead with 35,000 job cuts, planned in February and postponed due to the pandemic. The cuts will be focused in the U.S. and Europe, as the bank hires more staff in Asia and the Middle East. 

A controversial security law in China, passed in June, raised human rights concerns regarding its treatment of protesters in Hong Kong, prompting U.S. legislation revoking Hong Kong’s special trading status and condemnation from European foreign affairs officials. Facebook and Google have stopped processing requests for user data in Hong Kong over concerns the data could be used to violate rights. 

In June, HSBC came out in support of the security law and joined , Group and Gruppe AG in screening clients for ties to Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement.

Despite its deference toward the Chinese government, HSBC became entangled with state-run newspaper Huawei, which claimed that HSBC had been “setting traps to ensnare,” the newspaper, which is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The investigation led to the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou in 2018 in Canada.

In the bank’s second-quarter earnings release, CEO Noel Quinn acknowledged the tensions between the global superpowers, if not the bank’s involvement in them, as an inevitable challenge for the bank.

“Current tensions between China and the US inevitably create challenging situations for an organization with HSBC’s footprint,” said Quinn. “However, the need for a bank capable of bridging the economies of east and west is acute, and we are well-placed to fulfill this role.”

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