As at many of its fellow banking giants, investment banking proved a significant bright spot in an otherwise grim year for HSBC. Of course, all it took for that to be true was for unit’s profit to fall 7% compared to the bank’s overall 45%, but no matter: Unlike its peers, some of whom are choosing to reward their top performers or who are at worst holding the line for them, HSBC has decided to encourage those architects of its only arguable success of 2020 to apply for jobs at those other banks.
Bonuses at HSBC’s investment bank and trading division were down 15% for 2020, according to the company’s annual report. This was in line with those in asset management and private banking, and less severe than in other parts of the bank where cuts topped 20%.... More junior staff were generally less affected by the cut, HSBC said, with those lower down in the bank receiving bonuses more in line with their performance than senior employees.
Of course, many of their announced bonuses may prove theoretical, because HSBC still has 24,000 layoffs to implement, and if that call comes before the check, well, the check’s not going to come.
Among those set to lose out on their bonus are staff facing redundancy in some jurisdictions. Under its pay policy, employees are no longer eligible for a share of the bank’s bonus pool once they have been informed they are being cut even if they are still employed by the company on or beyond the date when the payments are made.
This all has a very perverse potential impact on HSBC’s key revenue generator, such as it is: On the one hand, you’ve told your very best employees that they’ll have to take their talents elsewhere if they wish to be appropriately compensated, while on the other making clear to the rest of them that they might not want to work too hard, since there’s a one-in-seven chance they won’t be rewarded for it anyway.
It's easy to see why you might feel a bit disincentivized as a result. - The bank still has 24,000 of its 35,000 job cuts still to go. Why work hard all year for the prospect of a reduced bonus irrespective of performance, or no bonus at all if the bank decides to chop you the day before it hits your bank account?