HSBC plans to leave its Canary Wharf headquarters in east London in late 2026 and move to a smaller office space in the city’s central financial district, the bank said in a memo seen Monday by the Financial Times, Reuters and Bloomberg.
The bank’s preferred location is Panorama St. Paul’s, the redeveloped former head office of telecom group BT, it said.
Private-equity firm Orion Capital Management bought the 556,000-square-foot property in 2019, seeking to update its environmental credentials and offer rooftop terraces with views of its namesake cathedral.
The new footprint would be roughly half the size of the 1.1 million-square-foot, 45-story Canary Wharf tower HSBC has occupied since 2002. The bank’s lease there expires in early 2027.
The bank’s chief operating officer, John Hinshaw, told staff in September the bank was downsizing within its headquarters by about 25% to reduce costs, cut energy use and “to have an even more flexible and dynamic workspace that meets the needs of colleagues and clients,” according to The Times of London.
“We want our head office to connect people, drive collaboration, foster alternative workstyles and promote well-being,” Hinshaw wrote.
HSBC executives have long acknowledged in-office attendance is down from a pre-pandemic peak of roughly 8,000 employees a day in the Canary Wharf space.
The bank’s CEO, Noel Quinn, turned the 42nd floor of HSBC’s skyscraper into client meeting rooms and collaborative spaces in 2021. Executives now hot-desk in an open-concept space two floors lower, according to the Financial Times.
“Our offices were empty half the time because we were traveling around the world,” Quinn told the publication. “That was a waste of real estate.”
The move can be seen as a boost for the city’s central financial district and a blow for the Qatar Investment Authority and Brookfield, which co-own Canary Wharf Group. Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund and the Canadian developer had devised plans for a new space in an effort to persuade HSBC to stay, Bloomberg reported.
HSBC is hardly the first Canary Wharf resident to migrate toward the center of London in event times. Law firm Clifford Chance agreed in November to leave the area in 2028. Citi is downsizing from two buildings to one. And the merger with UBS puts into question Credit Suisse’s long-term prospects at Canary Wharf.
HSBC in September affirmed it would keep its global headquarters in London rather than move to Hong Kong in a nod to its Asia-centric growth plan.
QIA and Brookfield, meanwhile, have sought to attract life sciences companies to Canary Wharf.
Office vacancies in London jumped to 9% in May from 5% in March, the Financial Times reported, citing data from CoStar. But Canary Wharf’s vacancy rate was higher than 10% in May, the data show.