Listening Bank turns a deaf ear as HSBC rebrands... as HSBC

The old Midland Bank branch in Paragon Square, Hull
The old Midland Bank branch in Paragon Square, Hull
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HSBC is to rebrand its British retail business as HSBC UK in a move ending months of speculation that the group was planning to revive the Midland name on the high street.

The banking giant - which is rebranding the British arm ahead of new rules to ring-fence retail operations from investment banking - said it had decided to keep the HSBC name after consulting with staff and customers.

HSBC, whose initials originally stood for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, will roll out the rebrand from January 1 2018.

It is understood the Midland - whose slogan was ‘The Listening Bank’, was one of a few names being looked at by HSBC for the rebrand, as its UK branches used to be known as Midland Bank before they were swallowed up in 1992.

HSBC said: “Feedback indicated that the HSBC brand represents strength and connectivity, supporting the domestic and international ambitions of our customers.”

The move to retain HSBC is also likely to cool expectations that it will sell the UK arm following ring-fencing, due to come into effect in 2019.

HSBC’s ring-fenced bank will be headquartered in Birmingham. The group’s First Direct subsidiary is based in Leeds.

The group put forward a few names in its research with focus groups of retail, private and commercial banking customers, as well as customer-facing staff.

Stuart Gulliver, group chief executive, said: “Setting up the UK ring-fenced bank in Birmingham is a key strategic action for the group.

“Our ambition is to be the bank of choice in the UK and as a name, HSBC UK will build on the global connectivity and customer trust of the HSBC brand and differentiate us in a competitive market. “

The bank is also reviewing whether or not to move its global group headquarters away from the UK due to regulatory and structural reforms and is set to make a decision by the end of the year.

It has been hit by the banking levy introduced since the financial crisis - seen as a key reason why HSBC is considering relocating away from London and possibly back to Hong Kong where it originated. A large part of its business is also focused on Asia.

But it is thought changes to the levy and Chancellor George Osborne’s plans for a new 8% surcharge - announced in the summer Budget - may persuade HSBC to retain its UK headquarters.