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Breakingviews - Capital Calls: HSBC plans to shrink offices, again

HSBC logo is seen on a branch bank in the financial district in New York, U.S., August 7, 2019.

LONDON (Reuters Breakingviews) - Concise insights on global finance in the Covid-19 era.

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CANARY MORPH. Noel Quinn will be hoping his plan to shed office space is more successful than one of his predecessor’s. The HSBC chief executive on Tuesday declared his ambition to shrink the global bank’s property footprint by 40% in the long term as employees shift to more flexible ways of working after Covid-19.

The target does not include branches, or HSBC’s headquarters in London’s Canary Wharf. Nevertheless, the plan recalls a previous CEO’s ambitions to reduce his commercial rent bill. Back in June 2007, HSBC’s then-boss Michael Geoghegan announced that he had challenged his team to empty half the head office and sublet it to somebody else. The declaration raised eyebrows, not least because HSBC had sold the building to Spanish property investor Metrovacesa for more than 1 billion pounds a few months earlier. HSBC bought back the building for a lower price a year later. (By Peter Thal Larsen)

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