HSBC to reopen all offices in England from 19 July as banks ramp up return

HSBC is reopening all of its offices in England from 19 July, with City banks look to ramp up employee numbers as government Covid-19 restrictions lift.

The UK lender is capping capacity within its lifts to 50% as its offices around the country re-open, according to an internal memo seen by Financial News. In 8 Canada Square, its Canary Wharf headquarters, it had previously been allowing just two employees per lift in a bid to retain social distancing guidelines.

Over the next few months, the memo added that HSBC will also increase building capacity to around 50% of staff.

“I know many colleagues will be hugely excited to get back into the office, while others will want to transition back more slowly,” the memo from the bank’s UK major incident group said.

READ JPMorgan set to lift 50% staffing cap in Canary Wharf as restrictions ease

While Wall Street investment banks have been quick to ask employees to return to the office, HSBC has been relatively conservative, with just 4% of staff coming into its Canary Wharf headquarters throughout the pandemic. Meanwhile, it is set to slash real estate costs by 40% as it moves to a hybrid working model for some of its staff.

The bank is not expecting an immediate wave of staff into the offices, according to a person familiar with the matter, but there are more signs of life returning to normal. Staff coming into the office are still required to wear face masks, but it is also reopening HSBC gyms, lifting restrictions on client meetings and removing approval processes for internal gatherings.

While 19 July will see the UK government lift most Covid-19 restrictions in England, City investment banks are not expecting a big bang of employees returning. The regular summer lull over August is instead likely to see more bankers hit their desks in September, according to dealmakers contacted by Financial News.

READ Goldman Sachs says up to 50% of staff are back in the office

However, there are signs that a return to the office is imminent for many, albeit with safety measures in place. JPMorgan told staff in England that it expects to go beyond its 50% maximum capacity limit in its offices over the next few months, FN has reported, while Goldman Sachs is anticipating up to 70% of its 5,000 staff to return in the coming weeks, Richard Gnodde, chief executive of its international business told the BBC.

At HSBC, Goldman and JPMorgan employees are still expected to wear masks in communal parts of the office, despite the mandatory requirement being dropped from Monday.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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