HSBC’s Gulliver plans new cost cutting drive

Tim Wallace
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GIANT lender HSBC is set to promise investors more cost cuts and more automation of services tomorrow as it updates shareholders on progress made towards reforming how the bank is run.

Chief executive Stuart Gulliver has closed or sold 52 business units in the last two years in a drive to simplify the group and cut costs.

He has made annualised savings of $4bn (£2.6bn), over his $3.5bn target, in part by slashing overall headcount from 300,000 to 254,000.

But investors are still not happy with the bank’s cost to income ratio, which was 53.2 per cent in the first quarter.

“Return on equity is still not where it needs to be – people will be asking what all the changes so far mean, why the balance sheet is stronger but returns are not ,” said analyst Gary Greenwood from Shore Capital.

“There is not much more that can be done on reducing impairments, HSBC is coming to the end of selling and closing businesses. So the focus has to be on efficiency.”

That is expected to mean further automation, and pushing more into online and mobile banking services, rather than in-branch provision.

However, the bank will still have to up spending on risk and compliance. In the first quarter it cut 1,000 staff in a push to save money, only to have to hire another 900 compliance workers.