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HSBC considers leaving iconic Canary Wharf HQ as more bankers work from home

The lender has been in the 45-story building in Canary Wharf, once Britain's most expensive office block, since 2002 - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
The lender has been in the 45-story building in Canary Wharf, once Britain's most expensive office block, since 2002 - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

HSBC is considering quitting its iconic Canary Wharf headquarters in London, known by some staff as the “Tower of Doom”, as the Covid crisis ushers in a new era of flexible working.

The bank, one of Britain's largest employers, is reviewing whether to keep its towering London skyscraper or move to a new base after last year vowing to slash around 8.6m sq ft of office space around the world, equivalent to 112 football pitches.

In a memo sent to staff on Thursday, HSBC's operating chief John Hinshaw praised flexible working and said the lender is now weighing up whether to extend the lease of its headquarters after it expires in 2027. It said its global base will remain in London.

The lender has been in the 45-story building in Canary Wharf, once Britain's most expensive office block, since 2002.

Some staff dubbed the base the "Tower of Doom" following a period of job cuts and infighting in 2019. One team said to be so frustrated with the lengthy morning queues for the lifts asked to move to a lower floor partly to avoid the wait.

The review of the office comes despite chief executive Noel Quinn last year hinting that the Canary Wharf headquarters was here to stay, saying: "We'll have the building here in Canary Wharf, this will be the primary London office, but the nature of working will change".

However Ewen Stevenson, HSBC's finance chief, suggested at the time that closures will be steeper in Western markets as people tend to live in bigger houses, so can work from home more easily. Workers here are also more likely to have lengthy commutes.

The Covid crisis has caused companies around the world to change working patterns and reassess the need for sprawling, expensive offices after years of enforced working from home.

HSBC was last year one of the most high profile City firms to commit to permanent flexible working, following pledges to support employees at home from the likes of blue chip fund manager Schroders and tech behemoth Google.