HSBC has become the latest bank to change its warning of a Brexit exodus as it signalled that the number of jobs to leave London might be fewer than first thought.
The UK-based lender’s finance director Iain Mackay said the total “may be less than 1,000 employees”, the number it has previously been suggesting would need to be transferred to Paris.
It comes days after the head of Swiss bank UBS said its “worst case scenario” of having to shift 1,000 jobs out of London was looking unlikely.
Mr Mackay’s remarks came as HSBC reported a five-fold increase in third quarter pre-tax profit, as a sweeping overhaul aimed at a shift in focus towards Asia paid off.
Meanwhile, another banking boss, Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, was also sounding a more emollient tone about the UK during a visit to London.
Goldman is building a new European headquarters in the capital and, Mr Blankfein wrote on Twitter, is still “hoping to fill it up”.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street boss had said he would be spending a lot more time in Frankfurt as a result of Brexit.
Just left Frankfurt. Great meetings, great weather, really enjoyed it. Good, because I’ll be spending a lot more time there. #Brexit
— Lloyd Blankfein (@lloydblankfein) October 19, 2017
HSBC had told Sky News in February last year, months before the EU referendum, that around 1,000 London-based jobs at its investment banking arm could move to Paris in the event of a Leave vote, a number it has subsequently reaffirmed.
On Monday, Mr Mackay told reporters: “It may be less than 1,000 employees, but it’s up to 1,000.”
He said the bank has booked $12m in costs in the third quarter related to Brexit, mainly on legal advice related to contingency planning. It still expects to spend $200-300m on Brexit relocation costs.
HSBC reported pre-tax profit of $4.62bn, up from $843m in the same period last year as revenue rose 13% to $13bn.
The large increase was partly due to large one-off costs incurred a year ago.
Stripping these out, adjusted profits actually fell 1% to $5.44bn this time as costs grew, reflecting investments in business growth programmes as well as higher banker bonuses.
Shares were more than 1% lower in midday trading in London.
HSBC is nearing the end of a major restructuring, launched in 2015, that includes shedding thousands of workers and shrinking its global size so it can focus more on Asia’s emerging markets.
It is also bringing in new leadership, with new chief executive John Flint set to replace current boss Stuart Gulliver in February.
HSBC is Europe’s biggest bank, but it makes more than half of its profits in Asia.
It said its customer base for retail banking and wealth management in mainland China had expanded by more than 70% so far this year.
HSBC, like other UK banks, is still counting the cost of paying back customers for past mistakes, adding another $84m to its redress bill in the latest quarter – though this was sharply down on the $456m seen in 2016.