HSBC downsizing banking operations in MidEast

HSBC is scaling down its private banking operations in the Middle East, two sources told Reuters, and HSBC said its top private banker in the region had been reassigned to London.

HSBC, Europe’s biggest lender, has decreased the number of relationship managers to around 10 from 50-60 at its peak 18 months ago, one banking source familiar with the matter said. As many as 200 private bankers were employed by the bank in 2008 in the region, a second banking source added.

HSBC confirmed, as one of the sources had said, that Mark Stadler, HSBC’s global market head for the Middle East and Africa private bank since January 2011, had relocated to London.

He will be replaced by Sobhi Tabbara, who was previously Business Area Head for MENA and Saudi Arabia, a spokesman for HSBC in Dubai said in an emailed statement.

“We are not closing our private banking business in the Middle East, and it is not for sale. We have made a number of management changes across the private banking that mean that Mark Stadler has returned to the UK,” the statement said.

The UK-headquartered lender will scale down private banking operations in the Middle East to focus more on corporate and retail banking in the region and follows reviews of its Middle East business, the sources said.

“They have made a cautious decision to scale back private banking in the region and focus on the corporate and retail side. The cost base in the private banking is considerably higher and competition really intense,” the first banking source said.

“The Middle East is a key area for the bank, and there is more pressure to derive more profits from the region.”

HSBC, however, is not planning to fully close its private banking business in the region and may retain a small unit in Dubai, the source added.

Amwal Al Ghad