HSBC top managers to work from hot desks as CEO scraps executive floor

The 42nd floor of the lender's London headquarters will host client meeting rooms and collaborative space

FILE PHOTO: The HSBC logo is seen in the Canary Wharf financial district in London,Britain, March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/File Photo

Top executives at HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, will work at hot desks after chief executive Noel Quinn scrapped the entire executive floor at the lender's Canary Wharf headquarters in London.

The 42nd floor of the bank's office building will now host client meeting rooms and collaborative space. Senior staff will have to work from an open plan space two floors below, Mr Quinn told the Financial Times in an interview.

“We don’t have a designated desk. You turn up and grab one in the morning,” he said.

Offices of the lender’s top executives were empty half the time as they travelled around the world and keeping that space engaged was “a waste of real estate”, he said.

“If I’m asking our colleagues to change the way that they’re working, then it’s only right that we change the way we’re working,” Mr Quinn said. “I won’t be in the office five days a week. I think it’s unnecessary … it’s the new reality of life.”

More changes are coming and it will be a “very different” working style going forward that will be much more hybrid, Mr Quinn, who has been in charge of HSBC for more than a year and a half, told the newspaper.

HSBC is in the middle of restructuring its operations and has shed 35,000 jobs to reduce headcount to about 200,000. It plans to reduce its cost base by $5.5 billion, which will help it offset pressure on earnings amid a low interest rate environment.

As part of its cost-cutting drive, the lender does not plan to renew many of its city-centre leases due in the next three to five years. The bank is also shifting to a policy of about two employees per desk, excluding branches.

The Covid-19 pandemic has forced global lenders and major corporations to rethink how they operate. Many have adopted hybrid working models. Standard Chartered formalised hybrid working arrangements this month for its 95,000 employees. Britain’s biggest mortgage lender Nationwide will allow its 13,000 office-based staff to work from home full-time if they wish and Lloyds is carrying out trials of hybrid working this spring after 77 per cent of employees “expressed a desire” to continue working remotely.

Not all financial institutions are happy about embracing remote working model permanently. In February, Goldman Sachs Group chief executive David Solomon said that remote working is “an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible”.