HSBC Canada: Still Hiring and Growing Despite Potential Sale

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Although HSBC Holdings PLC has confirmed the possible sale of its full-service Canadian investment advisory unit, an HSBC Canada official tells eFinancialCareers that the bank remains committed to growing its Canadian businesses-including pieces of the wealth management operation which, she said, are absolutely not up for sale.

"As HSBC Group CEO Stuart Gulliver has said, Canada is a growth market for HSBC," Sharon Wilks, HSBC Bank Canada's assistant vice president for public affairs told eFinancialCareers, adding that this has not changed.

Last month, Fabrice de Dongo, senior director of public affairs at HSBC Bank Canada, a colleague of Wilks, said that HSBC is hoping to create some new jobs in Canada, with an emphasis on both retail and business banking. De Dongo admitted that some positions will be eliminated, but bank officials "plan to create others," he explained.

It is true that talks are underway for the possible sale of a unit representing 120 investment advisors and support staff, Wilks says.

Beyond that however, "We will be hiring additional staff for our commercial banking, global banking and markets, and retail banking and wealth management divisions and making substantial investments in HSBC InvestDirect (an online banking service) and improving access to wealth management products through our existing channels as part of our growth plans for Canada," Wilks told eFinancialCareers.

Furthermore, she said, "We are expanding our commercial banking business in Central Canada and will continue to invest in our HSBC Premier retail banking, discretionary Private Investment Management services (where counselors are given broad discretion to make investment choices on clients' behalf), as well as HSBC InvestDirect self directed investing and HSBC Trust businesses.

On the whole, HSBC Bank Canada has roughly 8,000 employees and more than 260 offices including over 140 bank branches in Canada. HSBC announced this summer that it will lay off 30,000 people worldwide by 2013 and has been working to shed assets, including its U.S. credit card unit, but Wilks wanted to set the record straight regarding its continued commitment to growth in many parts of its Canada operation.

"The announcement represents a modest shift to focus more fully on our competitive advantages," says Wilks, referring to a statement published by the Wall Street Journal confirming discussions were underway for the possible sale of the advice-giving unit.

So far speculation has centered on Quebec-based National Bank. Luc Paiement, head of the wealth management unit at National Bank Financial, had previously told Dow Jones his bank was keen "any asset that comes outside of Quebec" but declined to say whether they are in talks with HSBC or not.

The bottom line: While the HSBC's Retail Banking and Wealth Management division of HSBC Securities (Canada) Inc. comprises some 120 investment advisors and associated support staff, it also includes units dedicated to asset management, trust, an discretionary private investment management services and more, which are not up for sale and are targeted for expansion, Wilks said.

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