Ian Stuart is the Chief Executive of HSBC UK, our new ring-fenced bank which will be based in Birmingham. He discusses his ambitions for HSBC UK and his priorities for the future.
What is HSBC UK?
HSBC UK is going to be a major bank with a strong capital base and millions of customers across the UK. It will serve the customers of our retail, commercial and private banking businesses. The new bank is aiming to trade from 1 July 2018, six months ahead of the deadline required by law.
What are your ambitions for the new bank?
There are challenges in preparing the new bank to go live, but there are also opportunities. We have a chance to step back and really think about what we want to do in the UK. We can leverage an amazing balance sheet to help customers better than ever. Plus, we have a platform to grow the business. Across all of our business lines, our shared ambition is to be the bank of choice for customers, colleagues and communities. We are confident we can grow market share across all three lines of business.
Our focus is on sustainable growth. We are planning for the long term – that’s why we have a 250-year lease on the new head office in Birmingham. I think the outlook is very positive, based on significant investment, quality products, loyal customers and great people.
How can HSBC UK support the British economy?
Banks such as HSBC play an important role in national life. We lend money. Lending puts oxygen into the economy. It helps businesses to flourish and individuals to get the home of their dreams. And with more than 1 million small and medium-sized business customers, and more than 14 million retail customers, HSBC UK will be among the biggest lenders in the country.
Our shared ambition is to be the bank of choice for customers, colleagues and communities
HSBC’s international network is also unique. We are on the ground in the most important trading nations worldwide. That gives us the ability to make connections between customers, to help them set up in new countries, to meet potential business partners. That is hugely valuable to customers and a unique selling point for us in the UK.
Over and above our economic contribution, we’ve got to be a good citizen. Getting into the heart of communities is really important to us. That’s why we’re sponsoring British Cycling. We’re also committed to long-term relationships with charities such as The Prince’s Trust, Alzheimer’s Society, Big Issue and others.
What will the transition mean for customers?
Most of our customers should see no difference. It will be business as usual. But to ensure the bank is run independently in accordance with the ring-fencing rules, we need to make changes now to some of our technical systems. For example, we have had to give some UK customers a new sort code and account number. That particular change is nearly complete, and customers have been amazingly helpful in achieving it. We are also progressing well with the separation of systems, which, again, is nearly complete.
The head office of HSBC UK will be in Birmingham. Why?
Having a head office outside London sets us apart from lots of other major banks. Geographically, Birmingham is fairly central. In many senses it is also the home of UK manufacturing and a major hub for industries including automotive, food and aerospace. So the move will bring us closer to an important set of customers.
The welcome from the city could not be warmer. Look around, there are cranes on every side. The city is growing fast and there’s a real sense of energy. We are proud to be part of that. Birmingham is going places and that suits us well.
What kind of culture do you want to encourage in HSBC UK?
Good service is vital – it earns customers’ trust and loyalty. If you want a personal loan, there are 50 different places you can get it. The products and pricing are often similar. It is service that makes the difference.
On one hand, good service means responding to changing needs. People today want to bank 24/7 and in a way that suits their lifestyle. HSBC has got a great online service and quality apps in the UK, but we need to keep on refining them. We have to continually make banking user-friendly, simple and quick.
It’s also important to give our frontline employees the skills and confidence to take decisions. People often get in touch with their bank when they’re in a tight spot and need a quick decision. I want our people to be confident about saying: “Yes we can do that, yes we can help.” I also want a supportive culture. I talk about this a lot; my job is to give everyone in HSBC UK a protective cover – allowing people to get on with their job with confidence.
HSBC UK’s new home
08 May 2017
HSBC UK’s headquarters in Centenary Square, Birmingham, will meet high environmental standards.
How important is it to you to create a diverse and inclusive workplace?
Diversity is a must. We can’t afford to overlook any talent. It doesn’t matter what your personal background is: if you can get the job done, you’re welcome here. Our customers come from very different backgrounds, too. We need employees who understand different cultures and behaviours and who can adapt. So I’m keen to make sure we have a very open culture.
Among other things, that means being open to different ways of working. Talented people want to work flexibly. Our customers want to bank flexibly – so we need people who are ready to speak to customers at 10 pm if that is what the customer wants. I want to give employees the technology that enables them to work from home if it suits their lifestyle. And if they want to work three days a week, we’ve got great roles that can be done three days a week. In fact, many jobs can be adapted to a flexible working pattern.
How are you going to invest in your employees?
Two floors of the new building in Birmingham will be available for use as a training facility, accommodating up to about 300 people a day. This will be HSBC’s UK University – one of four planned globally. There are lecture theatres and presentation halls. We’ve always spent a lot of time and money on helping employees develop their skills, but this new investment takes it to a different level. I think it’s hugely exciting.
How will HSBC UK interact with the rest of the HSBC Group?
One of my big tasks is to make sure that collaboration between HSBC in the UK and HSBC in the rest of the world is stronger in five years’ time than it is today. It should be business as usual. My message to all my colleagues around the world is this: we are open for business, we are here for you. When colleagues are visiting the UK from overseas, you will get the warmest of welcomes in Birmingham. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible.