Belfast Telegraph

HSBC boss hails Macron's push for labour reforms ahead of staff move

The boss of HSBC has applauded the French president's push for labour reforms amid plans to relocate 1,000 staff to Paris after Brexit.

Stuart Gulliver said that while the bank had already made its decision to shift select operations to the French capital, these changes will be particularly important for banks that are still looking for an EU hub for their operations.

"The package of reforms that was suggested last week is very, very positive for France if they're enacted," the HSBC chief executive said during a panel discussion at the Paris Europlace International Financial Forum on Tuesday.

"The banking industry is quite cyclical. It does have actually less stable employment than other sectors - the ability to be able to manage a cost base through a cycle is quite important.

"In places like London, Hong Kong, New York, there is tremendous flexibility around that ... I think France is marching towards it but, again, people will want to see this stick for a period of time."

His comments come after Emmanuel Macron put forward a package of proposals earlier this summer that include measures that cap the financial penalty for companies sued for firing employees, and allow businesses more flexibility to define internal working rules.

But Mr Gulliver stressed that big companies need to be confident that the new regulations will survive "at least two presidential cycles" before committing to moving to France.

"You're obviously going to consider whether or not that package of reforms will stay ... It's very early in the new presidency and people will still have very fresh in their minds that Mr (Francois) Hollande declared that finance is the enemy."

However, the HSBC boss said he was "optimistic" that the reforms would be upheld.

Mr Gulliver has suggested that there is no rush to shift HSBC's own operations away from Britain, given that the bank already has a full service universal bank within the EU after buying up Credit Commercial de France in the early 2000s.

HSBC, which currently has 43,000 employees in the UK, revealed in January that it was planning to move "activities covered specifically by European financial regulation" to the EU, resulting in about 1,000 jobs being shifted to the continent.

"But I would stress again that if Brexit turns out to be soft Brexit it may not be 1,000. At the moment we actually don't know the shape it (Brexit) would be.

"We've very strictly done our analytics on the worst case (scenario), Mr Gulliver said.

"Remember, banks only exit if they have clients, so we need to organise ourselves in such a way that we can provide continuity to European companies."

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