A man in a face mask passes through the HSBC Headquarters in Central in September 2020.
HSBC, the target of attack by some protesters during Hong Kong’s 2019 street rallies, is stepping up on its support of a government effort to promote jobs and education opportunities for the city’s youth. Peter Wong Tung-shun, the bank’s Asia-Pacific chief executive and a delegate representing Hong Kong in China’s national legislature, has proposed the establishment of an organisation to provide guidance and advice to the city’s youth to help them study, work or set up new businesses on the mainland, particularly in the Greater Bay Area (GBA).
“They need information and guidance for them to make right choices to develop their career,” he said, adding that local authorities should establish an online platform to give information and advice through organising seminars and conferences.
The proposal by Wong, the top executive of the largest of Hong Kong’s three currency issuers – known as a taipan during colonial days – underscores how the GBA could present a viable option for the city’s youth, where the unemployment rate had jumped to a 17-year high of 7 per cent. With a combined population of 72 million people and US$1.7 trillion in economic output, the cluster of 11 cities in southern China including Hong Kong and Macau could be the world’s 11th largest economy if it were a stand-alone entity.
Wong tabled his proposals on Thursday in a Chinese language statement during the fourth session of the 13th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing. The CPPCC has 2,158 delegates who hail from different political parties, professions, and industries. Delegates meet for a week-long meeting in Beijing to discuss policies and recommendations to the legislature.
Hong Kong’s government introduced a “Greater Bay Area Youth Employment Scheme” in January to create 2,000 jobs in the area for HK$18,000 per month, offering to subsidise the salary by HK$10,000 for each graduate.
HSBC, which traces its history to Hong Kong and Shanghai more than a century ago, joined the scheme with an offer of 100 jobs. The bank would also grant up to HK$8 million for scholarships over the next three academic years for up to 100 Hong Kong undergraduates who want to work or study in the GBA.
HSBC’s history in Hong Kong did not shield it from acts of vandalism in 2019, when the city was gripped by months of street protests. The bank’s iconic bronze lion statues at its head office in Central were set on fire and spray-painted by vandals, sustaining damages that required nine months to restore.
Some of the bank’s branches around Hong Kong were also vandalised in 2019 and last year, forcing HSBC to temporarily shut nearly a dozen outlets
in the city during the height of the protest movement.
HSBC, the largest bank in Hong Kong and Europe, has big plan in the GBA, spending US$150 million since 2019 on its first global training centre in Nansha, a district in Guangzhou about an hour by car from Hong Kong. Known as the HSBC University, the 11-storey centre will go into operation by 2024 to provide training to over 14,000 HSBC employees in Asia-Pacific as well as senior global executives each year.
HSBC earned 53 per cent of its 2020 worldwide revenue in Asia including Hong Kong and China. The bank announced last month a plan to set up a GBA office headed by Daniel Chan Hing-yiu, joining Bank of East Asia and Standard Chartered Bank in creating senior executive roles for the area.