Banks love a town hall meeting. During times of trouble or change, or simply at times that correspond to fiscal results, employees convene to hear executives speak about the future.
There have been dramatic town halls past, like the one on September 15th 2008, when John Thain amassed employees at Merrill Lynch to discuss the sale to Bank of America. More recently, things have been quieter: Pablo Salame spread the word about his, “Just add butter,” aphorism in a Goldman Sachs town hall last April, but this was as exciting as things went. Until HSBC’s town hall yesterday to discuss Matthew Westerman’s departure.
Financial News reports that the town hall was due to take place yesterday for everyone in HSBC’s global banking division. In the circumstances, it’s likely to have been rather intense. The more the dust settles, the clearer HSBC’s post-Westerman predicament becomes.
Global Capital says HSBC is seeking stability post-Westerman’s exit, so the town hall will have been as much about reassuring the troops that Westerman’s replacement, Robin Philips, will be a safe pair of hands as anything else. However, the issue goes deeper than this. As Financial News points out, the real question is whether HSBC can build a capital markets and M&A franchise on the back of its lending business. If the bank was in no real position to do so previously, it’s in even less of a position to do so now.
Under Westerman, who stands accused of being a visionary but “very aggressive individual” with a high churn of personal assistants, HSBC managed to lose star bankers like James Simpson, who was hired from UBS in 2014 and landed the ChemChina Sygenta bid – the largest deal HSBC had worked for a decade. Simpson, who was last seen setting up his own private equity firm seems unlikely to return in a hurry. This leaves the slew of bankers hired in by Westerman himself to pioneer HSBC’s banking growth, but they’ve now lost their great leader. Yesterday’s town hall was an opportunity to keep them on side. Whether it worked will soon become apparent.
Separately, you should be working in Canada. A new report from the Conference Board of Canada, reported upon by Bloomberg extols the great growth in banking jobs in Toronto. Pointing out that Toronto is second only to New York for financial services employment in North America, the report says Toronto experienced a 25% increase in financial services employment between 2006 and 2016, or the addition of 54,580 jobs. New York, over the same period, saw finance jobs decline by 3.5%.
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Photo credit: 120; Royal Visit, reception at Town Hall, Cuba Steet – 11 Jan 1954 by Wellington City Council is licensed under CC BY 2.0.