HSBC Holdings has scrapped the executive floor of its Canary Wharf headquarters in London and turned the private offices of its top staff into client meeting rooms and collaborative spaces.

CEO Noel Quinn and other senior managers have been kicked out of their offices on the 42nd-floor and will hot desk on an open-plan floor two levels below, Quinn told the Financial Times in an interview. The offices were empty half of the time because senior staff were travelling around the world, which was a “waste of real estate”, he said.

Quinn told the newspaper that he won’t be in the office five days a week, saying “it’s unnecessary” and “the new reality of life”. A representative for HSBC confirmed the FT report to Bloomberg News.

The London-based bank, which expects to eventually shrink its property footprint by 40%, doesn’t plan to renew many of its city-centre leases due in the next three to five years, Quinn said. The lender is also shifting to a policy of about two employees per desk, excluding branches, he said.

Last year’s abrupt shift to remote working has sparked a debate across industries about needs for office space, prompting a number of global banks and other large firms to rethink how employees operate. Standard Chartered formalised hybrid working for staff across its global operations this month after 84% of employees asked to keep the flexible arrangements pioneered during the coronavirus pandemic.

HSBC has also been offering employees more flexibility. The bank recently told more than 1,200 staff at its British call centres that they can permanently work from home after the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year, it allowed eligible staff in Hong Kong to work as many as four days a week at home, subject to managers’ approval.

Still, not all banks are embracing a permanent shift to working from home. Goldman Sachs Group CEO David Solomon said in February that remote work is “an aberration that we are going to correct as quickly as possible”.



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