HSBC cash sweetener aims to entice staff to new Birmingham HQ

HSBC Canary Wharf

£2,500 if you can convince a colleague to move from London.

HSBC is offering its employees cash bonuses of up to £2,500 if they can convince a colleague to move from London to the bank’s new British headquarters in Birmingham.

The bank has created a special bonus scheme to encourage staff to “help us find the right people for Birmingham” because it is struggling to entice enough of its staff to make the 120-mile move before its new office opens in January.

Staff who manage to convince a friend to make the move to Birmingham will be rewarded with a cash bonus of between £750 and £2,500 depending on the seniority of the new Midlands recruit.

Britain’s biggest bank has only convinced just over half of its target of 1,040 people to make the move more than two years after announcing it would switch its UK banking operations from Canary Wharf to Birmingham.

The new cash bonus comes on top of the bank already attempting to sweeten the change by making its standard relocation package “more attractive” with “support for housing and children’s schooling”.

António Simões, HSBC’s chief executive, told reporters last week, during a visit to the bank’s new 10-storey 210,000-sq-ft office building in Centenary Square: “We have had some challenges but today we are ahead of where we thought we would be, with around 53% of the roles filled.”

Simões, who took over as HSBC’s chief executive in 2015, said it had proven “trickier” than expected to convince some specialists, particularly in areas like marketing and communications, to make the move, which he described as “quite a big task still”.

“We’ve made the standard package more attractive by offering for example support for housing and children’s schooling,” Simões said. He did not mention the cash bonuses, which were later found to be offered on HSBC internal staff website.

A HSBC spokesman said that despite the difficulties in convincing staff to move, the bank was convinced that its new £200m office would open on schedule.

The reluctance of the bank’s staff to move to the Midlands comes despite much lower house prices and a cheaper cost of living in Birmingham compared with London.

According to the property prices index provided by Hometrack the average home in Birmingham costs £152,000, less than a third of the average price in London. But house prices in Birmingham are rising much faster than in the capital, with prices up 7.7% in the year to April compared to 3.5% in London.

The new Birmingham office will contain HSBC’s UK retail and commercial bank, which is being split from the riskier parts of the group under the government’s ringfencing rules, which come into force at the start of 2019.

The continuing difficulty in recruiting staff for the Birmingham office may concern the bank’s official monitor, who was last year reported to have described the move as “a programme in crisis”. Michael Cherkasky, a lawyer who was installed as the bank’s official monitor following HSBC’s £1.2bn fine for money laundering offences from the US in 2012, was said to have expressed concerns to executives about the lack of staff willing to make the move. He said a delay could lead to the bank’s UK division lacking the ability to maintain proper money-laundering controls.

HSBC, which has 16 million customers in the UK, selected Birmingham for its British headquarters partly because of its purchase of Midland Bank in 1992. About 48,000 of HSBC’s 257,000 staff work in Britain.

Many British banks and other businesses are trying to relocate parts of their operations out of London because of the rising cost of office space in the capital. Of the 2.2 million people employed in financial services jobs in the UK, two-thirds now work outside London, according to data from the industry lobby group TheCityUK.

Financial jobs in Birmingham rose by 6.9% between 2013 and 2015, the group said. Other large financial employers in the city include Deutsche Bank, which has increased its Birmingham staff from 35 in 2007 to about 1,500 today.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Rupert Neate, for The Guardian on Sunday 4th June 2017 16.56 Europe/London

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

 

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