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Business Comment: Terry Murden

HSBC: the reasons for leaving UK are mounting

HSBCThere is much to digest in what is a lengthy statement from HSBC chairman Douglas Flint: the bank’s failings and fines, geopolitical and consumer change, and the new regulatory framework.

Each of them, in one way or another, are factors in the bank taking a hard look at itself and where it wants to position itself as it marks its 150th anniversary and looks ahead to the next 150 years. There has been some talk of it selling off the high street bank and, in a move similar to the revival of TSB and Williams and Glyns, restoring the Midland Bank brand which it acquired in the 1980s.

Clearly, its focus on emerging markets remains at the heart of its thinking and the huge shifts that Mr Flint outlines give it much to contemplate as it considers whether it would better serve these markets by moving out of London.

It is also clear that the bank may feel the new regulatory environment in the UK – and the US for that matter – may be too restrictive and too punishing.

Mr Flint also notes the bank’s concern over membership of the European Union and the risks of going it alone. It is another tick against the list marked “reasons for quitting Britain”.

There is a sense of hand-wringing angst in his address as if it were a speech he would rather not have delivered. Obviously, he would have preferred not to have been put in a position of having to apologise to shareholders for past misdemeanours.

The City is now on tenterhooks about whether one of the oldest members of the family is about to flee, but all the clues are here.

“History tells us if we treat every challenge as an opportunity to regroup and build a stronger and more resilient HSBC we will emerge in better shape to deal with whatever comes next,” Mr Flint said.

A fresh start for HSBC looks now looks likely.

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