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 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.