After freshly paying a record fine for market manipulation schemes, HSBC Holdings, Europe’s biggest bank, said it will review whether to move its headquarters out of Britain following regulatory and structural changes in the industry. The regulations are designed to shore up the financial system after 2008's market crash.
The move shows just how imperial the big banks feel and the lengths they will go to in order to avoid regulation and accountability.
Shareholders, themselves other big banks, have urged HSBC to move its headquarters to Asia, likely Hong Kong, due to a hefty UK bank tax and increased regulatory scrutiny in London.
“The board has therefore now asked management to commence work to look at where the best place is for HSBC to be headquartered in this new environment,” said HSBC Chairman Douglas Flint on Friday.
“The question is a complex one and it is too soon to say how long this will take or what the conclusion will be; but the work is under way.”
The news comes after rival Standard Chartered was rumored to be looking at quitting London for Asia. Like HSBC the firm has blamed taxes yet is likely also looking for a more lax regulatory climate offered by Asia.
The decision for a formal review was made by the board on Thursday.
HSBC sees less regulation as “critical to our future success”. Among notable new regulation, designed to shore up the financial industry after 2008's meltdown, is the requirement to separate its British retail business from the rest of the group by 2019.
Knowledgeable investors said that move is more significant than the bank levy and is likely the catalyst for the bank to move.