HSBC’s domicile just got serious - Bottom Line

Tim Wallace
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Osborne might become the chancellor who lost HSBC (Source: Getty)
A month ago, HSBC’s plan to consider leaving the UK seemed to be going nowhere – it generated a lot of heat, but little light.

The consensus was that the giant bank was a cry baby, throwing its toys out of the pram over taxes and charges it didn’t like. It would soon tire of wailing and grow up a bit.

But suddenly yesterday, the plan looked real.

An 11-point review was unveiled as part of a wide-ranging global shakeup, with the main presentation to investors running to 87 pages, plus hours of speeches and question and answer sessions with chief executive Stuart Gulliver.

That sounds serious – and it is.

The way the bank had discussed leaving in almost frantic tones previously risked giving the impression that management at the bank had over-reached, and was set for an embarrassing climbdown.

But yesterday revealed there is far more weight behind the discussion.

Given the whole bank globally and the UK unit in particular are being reformed, both by choice and by regulators, means this is the perfect moment to seriously consider domicile.

That does not mean the bank will move frivolously – for all the intensity and high-feeling of the political row, the bank wants to get it right and will conduct the review with utmost seriousness.

Given the UK retail bank is being re-named, moved to a new HQ and might even be sold off, we can see that Gulliver has given it plenty of thought.

Unless we get a radical change of tone from George Osborne tonight to make HSBC re-think, he might become the chancellor who lost the City one of its stars.

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