Bar­clays vows to keep base in Ca­nary Wharf

Chief ex­ec­u­tive com­mits to re­tain­ing bank’s 32-storey London HQ as the lender takes £1.6bn toxic loans hit

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business - By Lucy Bur­ton

THE boss of Bar­clays sought to quash spec­u­la­tion he could axe its Ca­nary Wharf head­quar­ters, as ri­val HSBC warned that only one fifth of staff will re­turn to its of­fices in Septem­ber amid fears of an ex­o­dus from London. Jes Sta­ley vowed to keep Bar­clays’ 32-storey London sky­scraper open in an ef­fort to row back from com­ments ear­lier this year when he sug­gested the era of pack­ing 7,000 peo­ple into an of­fice may have come to an end.

It came as Bar­clays wrote off another £1.6bn to cover the cost of toxic loans as Bri­tain strug­gles out of its worst re­ces­sion for cen­turies.

The pres­sure on the sec­tor was out­lined again last night as it emerged Stan­dard Char­tered would start a new round of job cuts. Economists are con­cerned that London will never re­turn to the bustling fi­nan­cial hub it was a few months ago be­cause staff are des­per­ate to keep work­ing from home and banks have spied a chance to cut costs.

HSBC said yes­ter­day that just 20pc of its 10,000 London em­ploy­ees would be re­turn­ing to its UK head­quar­ters in Ca­nary Wharf from Septem­ber, ac­cord­ing to Fi­nan­cial News.

NatWest Group has al­ready told 49,000 work­ers that they can stay at home un­til next year. Andrew Bai­ley, the Bank of Eng­land Gov­er­nor, told Tory MPs ear­lier this month that he was shocked by how empty London feels and said work­ers must go back to their of­fices to sup­port cafes, bars and shops that de­pend on their cus­tom.

A per­ma­nent slump in of­fice work­ers would have dire con­se­quences for hos­pi­tal­ity businesses and put many thou­sands of jobs in the cap­i­tal at risk.

Mr Sta­ley stoked ru­mours of ma­jor space cuts in April when he said the suc­cess of re­mote work­ing meant that sky­scrapers such as Bar­clays’ head of­fice might no longer be needed. How­ever, yes­ter­day he in­sisted the bank will “still have a ma­jor pres­ence in places like Ca­nary Wharf ”.

A Bar­clays source said the bank is not fac­ing pres­sure from Mr Bai­ley to get staff back into the of­fice.

Although 60,000 Bar­clays staff have been work­ing from home since lock­down, 20,000 of its UK work­ers kept go­ing to the of­fice or bank branches.

Bar­clays is brac­ing for the UK econ­omy to shrink by as much as 51pc – a fig­ure at the more ex­treme end of pre­dic­tions, although most economists still ex­pect 2020 to be by far the bleak­est year since the war.

Mean­while yes­ter­day, San­tander re­vealed it has swung €10.8bn (£9.7bn) into the red, post­ing its first loss since it was founded in 1857 af­ter ab­sorb­ing the big­gest coro­n­avirus hit yet taken by a bank. The Span­ish lender, which has a heavy pres­ence on UK high streets, said it took a €12.6bn hit from the pan­demic in the sec­ond quar­ter fol­low­ing a sharp de­cline in the value of businesses it had bought over the years.

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