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Standard Chartered plans hiring spree in Hong Kong as city reopens to China

<i>Paul Yeung/Bloomberg/Getty Images</i><br/>Standard Chartered
Bloomberg via Getty Images
Paul Yeung/Bloomberg/Getty Images
Standard Chartered

By Michelle Toh, CNN

Standard Chartered is going on a hiring spree in Hong Kong this year, in a sign of renewed confidence in its biggest market as the city reopens its border with mainland China.

The British bank said it would add 300 to 500 employees to its ranks of roughly 5,500 to 5,800. That would lift its current headcount in the city by up to 9%.

The move comes as the lender’s business in the global finance hub begins to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

In a results presentation Friday, Chief Financial Officer Andy Halford said that despite Hong Kong’s economic challenges, the bank grew its operating income in the city by 9% to just over $3.7 billion, which was “back to around 2019 levels.”

The firm is encouraged by early signs of “a pickup” in Hong Kong, he told analysts.

Standard Chartered Hong Kong CEO Mary Huen said the new recruitment drive would position the bank to capitalize on the reopening of the city’s border with mainland China.

China fully reopened its borders with its special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao this month, in what is expected to be a major boost for the economies of the two cities.

The reopening “is set to increase business opportunities” in fintech, wealth management and China’s Greater Bay Area, an economic zone that connects Guangdong province with Hong Kong and Macao, Huen said Friday.

“We need to hire more people as we expect there will be a good growth in loan and wealth management demand this year,” she added.

HSBC, Hong Kong’s leading bank, also flagged a strong performance in the city.

In a Tuesday earnings statement, CEO Noel Quinn said the London-based lender had “gained market share last year in key products, including customer deposits, insurance and trade finance.”

Chairman Mark Tucker said the firm was anticipating a boost in business from China’s resurgence.

“The reopening of the border means that Hong Kong, and the entire Greater Bay Area, are likely to be major beneficiaries, and I expect to see a strong recovery,” he said in the statement.

HSBC reported a 92% jump in adjusted pretax profit to $6.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2022, which was higher than analysts’ expectations. Hong Kong is also its biggest market.

The city hopes to stage a comeback as it continues to recover from two and a half years of pandemic restrictions.

In November, the city’s leader, John Lee, welcomed some of Wall Street’s top executives to its biggest international event in years, urging them to invest locally and seeking to reassure them that it would maintain a distinct role to that of mainland China.

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