HSBC: London losing to Asia

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Banking there is “quite a noticeable” migration of business from London to Asia, according to HSBC chairman Douglas Flint.

Speaking before the House of Commons Treasury committee, he pointed to “three 200,000 square foot buildings being taken by international banks in Singapore at the moment that might have gone somewhere else”.

Two of the buildings in question are thought to be a 513,000-square foot building taken by Standard Chartered recently and 250,000-square foot of office space signed by Citi Singapore.

Flint added that “business that we would have had” is instead moving to Hong Kong and Singapore, eroding London’s competitive advantage from a “cluster effect” of business in the capital.

While affirming HSBC’s current commitment to its London HQ, he warned that the bank will this year conduct one of its three-yearly reviews on whether to re-locate.

Any regulatory break-up of banking activities would be a factor in the decision, he said, calling the UK levy on global balance sheets “a tax on being headquartered here”. He added: “We are finding institutional investors routinely meeting to ask us to explain the cost of being in the UK.”