HSBC to axe one in seven UK branches

3 min read
Steve Slater

HSBC is axing 82 branches in the UK this year, or one in seven of its sites, as part of a shift to a new network that uses more digital banking and 'pop-up' branches.

HSBC said it wants to redeploy all customer service staff into other roles at the bank. The changes are part of a major overhaul by chief executive Noel Quinn, which is expected to cut about 35,000 jobs globally in the next few years to reduce costs and simplify operations. HSBC paused job cuts in March after the coronavirus pandemic emerged, but they were later restarted and the bank said in October it expected about 10,000 jobs would go in 2020.

Quinn wants HSBC to be a market-leading digital bank in the UK, and the bank said on Tuesday the Covid crisis and lockdown had reinforced the need to shift.

The bank said the number of customers using branches has fallen by one-third in the last five years, even after stripping out the impact of the pandemic, and 90% of all customer contact is now over the phone, internet or smartphone.

"The direction of travel is really quite clear and this is borne out by the reduction in branch usage and increase in digital interaction that we are seeing first-hand,” said Jackie Uhi, HSBC UK’s head of network.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has emphasised the need for the changes that we are making. It hasn’t pushed us in a different direction, but reinforces the things that we were focusing on before and has crystalised our thinking. This is a strategic direction that we need to take to have a branch network fit for the future," Uhi said in a statement.

HSBC said its UK network will be cut to 511 branches and there will be four formats: full service branches, mostly in cities and large towns; cash service branches in local communities that have a greater need for access to cash, simple services and bereavement services; digital service branches, which are counterless sites for cash and cheque transactions using self-service technology; and pop-up branches that are temporary, movable, local sites that can help customers get set up and work digital platforms.

The branches being closed have been named and are due to shut between April and September. They include a number of big branches in central London and other cities.

HSBC UK has about 14.5 million customers and 32,000 staff. It had already been making changes in parts of UK retail, and IFR reported in November it had moved to a new structure of 10 regions, which resulted in about 100 senior roles going, including branch directors, retail branch managers and sales and service managers.