HSBC's Greek branches ready for drachma

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The Independent Online

HSBC has set out contingency plans for all its 15 Greek branches to cope with a return of the drachma.

Iain Mackay, HSBC finance director, said it had made "preparations at multiple levels" to cope with the currency's re-emergence from an 11-year hibernation should Greece leave the euro. The bank has already reduced its exposure to Greece but has also trained staff at its branch network to be ready should the worst happen. This includes work to manage IT systems, branch funding, how to deal with customers and how to update ATM systems to dispense drachmas.

Mr Mackay said that the planning has been a challenge because it is impossible to do a "dry run" unless and until Greece leaves the single currency. "You can theorise and inform staff but you can't do more than that because it is A, inappropriate, and might lead to events you are trying to avoid and, B, there are legal, structural and regulatory issues," he said.

He was speaking after the company's recent investor day. During it he and Stuart Gulliver, the chief executive, said cost cuts would come in at the top of forecasts.

They also said they wanted to see an end to the market's view of HSBC as "a defensive stock" with a share price that rises less in good times but falls less at times of crisis.