HSBC Holdings PLC chairman Douglas Flint said the Asian banking centers of Hong Kong and Singapore are taking work from London, as the bank decides where to locate its headquarters.
“There’s evidence of quite noticeable growth in Singapore and Hong Kong,” Flint, 55, told a panel of parliamentarians at the House of Commons in London yesterday. “There are three 200,000 square foot [18,581m2] buildings being taken by international banks in Singapore that might have gone somewhere else.”
Asked whether that work might have come to London, Flint said it was “business that we would have had” in the British capital.
The shift to Asia was “modest at the moment,” he said.
HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, will decide whether to keep its headquarters in London this year, Flint said. The decision comes as the British government-appointed Independent Commission on Banking considers ring-fencing banks’ investment banking activities from their consumer banking businesses.
The decision on where to base its head office will be decided according to economic criteria, Flint said.
“Any decision we make will not be based on regulatory arbitrage, it will be based on the economics of where it’s best to do our business,” Flint said.
London has a “cluster effect” of global institutions being located in the British capital and has other advantages, including its legal framework, time zone and liquidity, Flint said.
“We don’t have an intention to relocate,” Flint said later in the one-hour hearing. “Were we to relocate, we would not go anywhere where there was a risk to the character of the organization.”
During the 145 years of the bank’s history, HSBC has been located in the UK for 18 years, Flint said.