The news that HSBC is to transfer 4,000 jobs to India, China and Malaysia by 2006 has gone down like a lead balloon. Unions are in uproar, staff are worried about their jobs and some customers are uncomfortable about the idea that their finances look likely to be off-shored.

It is feared that the ‘local bank’ will soon have so many staff in lower cost locations throughout the developing world, that it is in danger of being known as the ‘yokel’ bank.
And the wags are already having a field day – the favourites doing the rounds at the moment include: ‘HSBC – Help Save British Costs’ and ‘HSBC – Help Save Bombay Cousins’.

But HSBC is not the only financial institution off-shoring, so why is it getting so much flak ? As the bank has already pointed out, even after 2006, 87% of HSBC’s 55,000 jobs will still remain in Britain. Not bad for a so-called global business. The bank has also said that it hopes to transition the jobs without compulsory redundancies. Fair enough, then. So, what has HSBC done that it so wrong ?

Well, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland, of course, have both come out saying that they currently intend to keep ‘our jobs over here’. That doesn’t help HSBC. But the real rub is that the jobs that will go in the UK are in regional processing and call centres. Closing down or moving out most of the jobs in these operations in areas like Swansea, Sheffield and Brentwood in Essex could do permanent damage to the economic well-being of these local communities and will certainly stir up resentment among local people.

And decisions of this nature have implications for many others besides the HSBC staff affected. Lord knows what other businesses will suffer and may eventually have to close down when local HSBC workers lose their jobs. A groundswell of opinion could eventually build up against the bank.

There was a time when HSBC’s UK retail banking arm was called Midland, with it’s slogan of ‘the listening bank’. Let’s hope that the powers that be at HSBC listened to all the right people before they gave the green light to this project.