SÃO PAULO — British banking giant HSBC announced Tuesday that it will close its retail banking operations in Brazil, as part of a global overhaul of its workforce that could cut up to 50,000 jobs worldwide.
Currently the sixth largest high street bank in Brazil, HSBC employs 21,479 people in the South American country, according to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, with 853 branches focusing operations on higher earners.
HSBC plans to sell off its branches and end retail operations by the end of 2016, but will retain a “modest” operation in Brazil to service its largest corporate clients’ international needs.
The bank also operates financing company Losango, which it has tried – so far unsuccessfully – to sell for the last four years.
HSBC’s Brazil subsidiary sought to reassure customers that, for now, it was business as usual.
“HSBC Brasil is in the process of being sold … The bank continues to operate normally and, even after its sale, will continue serving its clients,” according to a statement from the bank, adding that it would seek a “smooth transition” to any potential buyer.
At least three major banks have shown interest in acquiring HSBC’s Brazil business: Bradesco, Itaú, and Santander.
HSBC also announced it will end all operations in Turkey, as it steers its business portfolio toward growing Asian markets – potentially also uprooting its headquarters from London to Hong Kong.
The bank is set to cut as many as 25,000 jobs – 10 percent of its 266,000 global workforce, including 8,000 in the UK. Some 25,000 more jobs are expected to be lost from the company’s books by curtailing its retail operations in Brazil and Turkey.
HSBC said it intends to save up to $5 billion in costs by 2017, according to a statement delivered to the Hong Kong stock exchange.
The scandal-hit bank had already cut 40,000 position between 2011 and 2014 in a bid to cut outgoings.
“We recognize that the world has changed and we need to change with it. That is why we are outlining … strategic actions that will further transform our organization,” said HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver.
On Thursday, prosecutors in Switzerland ended an investigation into the bank’s Geneva branch, which allegedly helped clients to evade tax – Brazilians among them – after the bank agreed to pay a fine of 40 million Swiss francs ($43 million).