Bank chief: HSBC may move fewer jobs to Europe if May softens Brexit approach

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HSBC could keep more jobs in Britain depending on whether the Government pursues a hard or soft Brexit, its UK chief executive has said.

Ian Stuart's comments signalled that a more accommodative approach from Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit could result in a smaller City exodus after the UK leaves the EU.

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.

"Depending on a hard or soft Brexit, that number might be slightly less than that, so it's going to be updated all the time," Mr Stuart told BBC Breakfast on Friday.

"We're still in uncharted waters today and we don't know exactly how it's going to look, so we've got to plan ahead."

A number of banks announced similar contingency plans after Mrs May confirmed that Britain will ditch the single market, which would subsequently see City firms lose passporting rights that provide wide-ranging EU access for UK-based financial services.

JP Morgan - which currently has 16,000 staff in the UK - has said it will ramp up operations at a number of its EU sites, with plans to move up to 1,000 London jobs to offices in Dublin, Frankfurt and Luxembourg in light of Brexit.

Standard Chartered has contacted German regulators about plans to set up a Frankfurt subsidiary, and Japanese banks Nomura and Daiwa are also understood to be on track to expand their operations in the German city.

But HSBC's group chief executive Stuart Gulliver said in January that the bank was in "no rush" to shift operations away from the UK, given that HSBC already has a full service universal bank within the EU after buying up Credit Commercial de France in 2002.

On Friday, Mr Stuart reiterated HSBC's commitment to Britain, saying the bank would be in the UK for "many years to come".