Legal Business Blogs

Trading places: HSBC to move 10% of London legal team to Birmingham

HSBC is planning to move about 20 of its London lawyers to Birmingham by 2017 in line with the new ring-fencing reforms, Legal Business has learned.

About 10% of the team is expected to move as part of a wider relocation by the bank, which plans to shift 1,000 of its London staff to the Midlands, its new headquarters for its ring-fenced retail and commercial operations.

According to Law Society records, HSBC Holdings and related entities have 190 solicitors based in the bank’s Canary Wharf headquarters, however it is understood the actual number of lawyers is over 200.

One law firm banking partner with knowledge of the move said many at the bank are unhappy with the decision, which has led to some internal exits in advance of the change.

‘HSBC is taking the view that it moves its retail bank to Birmingham. That is one of its ways of securing the ring-fence. All of the lawyers that are allocated and assigned to the retail part of the bank will need to move to Birmingham.’

Under the reforms proposed by the Bank of England, banks with core deposits greater than £25bn, including HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS and Santander, will from 2019 need to segregate their retail banking function from the rest of their group. This will have an inevitable effect on in-house legal teams.

The bank first confirmed in March that it would be relocating its UK retail operations to Birmingham, acquiring 210,000 sq ft at Two Arena Central in Birmingham’s Enterprise Zone in advance of the move.

HSBC is still to make a decision on the potential relocation of its international headquarters to Hong Kong following an announcement in April that it was reviewing this as a result of shareholder demand.

Last month HSBC announced the departure of its deputy company secretary and former Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Elaine Williams, who is due to take the general counsel (GC) role at FTSE 100 property developer British Land.

Williams will start as GC and company secretary from 16 November, moving from HSBC which she joined in 2011. She will be the first general counsel at British Land.

Birmingham seems to be the first choice of location for big banks who are moving their operations outside of London, whether it is as a result of the new ring-fencing rules or as a cost-cutting measure. In 2014 Deutsche Bank created 1,000 jobs in the city when it moved to Five Brindleyplace, with its strategy to continue expanding in the Midlands and move more of its day to day work outside of London.