Strike threat as 3,000 UK staff at HSBC face cuts

HSBC could be hit by strikes across its UK business after it warned more than 3,000 staff their jobs could be axed in its latest cost-cutting drive.

Britain's largest banking group said that plans to restructure its wealth management division meant 3,166 employees were at risk of redundancy. It added that, because some 2,000 new roles will be created, the net job loss would be closer to 1,149.

The trade union Unite described the cuts as a "disgrace" and warned that it had not ruled out balloting its members for industrial action.

The latest cuts are part of a three-year revival plan being spearheaded by the group's chief executive Stuart Gulliver, who hopes to reduce costs across the group and improve profits. HSBC says the move will improve the standard of advisers in the business.

HSBC employs more than 47,000 staff in Britain. The bank hopes to have reduced its global headcount by 30,000 by the end of the year despite posting group profits of $20.6bn in 2012.

Dominic Hook, Unite's national officer, said: "HSBC is making staff suffer in the search for ever greater profits. The bank's behaviour is a disgrace. After making proposals to slash pensions, holidays and sick pay, the bank is now slashing even more jobs. Staff are at the end of their tether and we will be asking them in due course if they are prepared to take part in a strike ballot to oppose this unprecedented attack by this very profitable bank.

"The cuts HSBC are making will affect the whole business and will mean fewer personal advisers serving more customers and small and medium-sized businesses getting less support when they should be getting more.

"These cuts are about putting profits before people and will do nothing to improve service or the image of the banking industry."

In response, HSBC said it would do "everything possible" to help those impacted fill the 2,000 new jobs being created.

It said the proposals would ensure that for the first time so-called Premier customers, who hold over £50,000 of savings and investments with the bank, will have a relationship manager "qualified to give financial advice as a single contact point for both their banking and wealth management needs".

Brian Robertson, the head of HSBC's UK business, said: "I understand change is always unsettling, particularly for those directly affected. However, I also firmly believe what we are proposing is essential in order for us to fulfil our customers' expectations.

"With the banking behaviour of our customers continually evolving, we must change our business to meet their needs.

"We are doing everything possible to offer impacted employees opportunities from the many newly created roles, and I'm confident a significant majority will remain with the bank."

The cuts come in the wake of comments by HSBC's chairman Douglas Flint earlier this week, who warned that the banking industry is at risk of "excluding" poorer customers.

"The worry is that the industry is moving towards serving high net-worth individuals rather than those at the bottom of society," he said at a conference in London on Monday.

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