HSBC will allow some of its Hong Kong employees to work as many as four days a week at home as lenders embrace more flexible working arrangements following months of working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The bank, one of Hong Kong's three currency-issuing lenders, will allow a variety of options for employees to work remotely if a staff member's role allows them to do so, according to revised human resources guidelines seen by the Post. Any changes in work arrangements will follow a discussion with their manager.
"We are constantly looking to develop overall flexibility in how we work," Luanne Lim, HSBC's chief operating officer in Hong Kong, and Betty Lam, head of human resources in Hong Kong, said in a separate November 4 memo. "In recent employee exchanges and surveys, some of you have expressed an interest in a blend of in-office and home working as we adapt to new ways of working in the past year."
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In the memo, HSBC told Hong Kong staff it would provide a one-off allowance of up to HK$2,500 (US$322) to purchase equipment for employees who commit to work at least two days a week from home and for a minimum of 12 months. Eligible items include ergonomic work chairs, computer monitors and desks.
A HSBC spokeswoman confirmed the contents of the memo and the guidelines changes on Wednesday.
Bloomberg reported the news earlier on Wednesday.
As part of the bank's third-quarter results presentation in October, Ewen Stevenson, the HSBC chief financial officer, said the London-based lender was considering more ways to digitise its operations and was considering a more hybrid model for staffing, with time split between the home and the office. He said at the time that more remote working might allow the bank to reduce office costs over time.
"I'd like to think the balance we could get to is two or three days at home, two or three days at the office," Stevenson said in an interview on Bloomberg Television on October 27.
HSBC is in the midst of a massive restructuring designed to reduce its annual costs by US$4.5 billion by 2022, including about 35,000 job cuts globally. The bank said in October it expected to reduce its annual costs to below US$31 billion within three years, a more ambitious target for its reshaping first announced in February.
Under its revised guidelines, so-called flexible office workers would be able to apply to work up to two days a week at home. A "flexible home worker" would primarily be based at their residence, working up to four days a week remotely, according to the guidelines.
HSBC, which employs about 22,000 people in Hong Kong, has previously allowed some flexible working arrangements for staff members as necessary in the past.
Following months of lockdowns and remote working across the globe because of the coronavirus pandemic, a wide variety of lenders have begun to embrace more flexible working options for staff.
The move also comes as banks are grappling with an extended period of historically low interest rates, which have cut into their bottom lines and fuelled efforts across the industry to further reduce costs.
Singapore's DBS said on Tuesday that it would allow all of its 29,000 employees to work from home up to 40 per cent of the time, create more flexible work arrangements through job sharing and retrain 7,200 workers in job skills for the future.
Beginning in 2021, Standard Chartered said it would allow employees in nine markets, including Hong Kong, to apply for formal flexible working arrangements. That could include splitting time between Standard Chartered's offices, at home or co-working facilities closer to their residences.
Standard Chartered employs about 6,000 people in the city.
Top executives at Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase have all said they were considering options that include some staff working from home permanently and others rotating between the home and the office.
More flexible working arrangements could reduce the demand for Hong Kong's prime office space over time, given financial companies are some of the biggest renters in Central, according to market observers.
Standard Chartered and HSBC combined rent about 440,000 square feet (40,800 square metres) of office space outside their own buildings in the city, according to market sources.
More from South China Morning Post:
- Singapore's DBS to allow employees to work from home up to 40 per cent of the time as it adopts hybrid model
- HSBC is in from the cold as China's finance ministry adds bank in latest €4 billion bond sale after previous exclusion
- Hong Kong banks lose appetite for prime space in world's costliest city as work-from-home becomes permanent after pandemic
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