Wed. May 18th, 2022

Bank of America, the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, has begun a review of its Hong Kong business to identify workers who could be relocated to Singapore as severe pandemic controls have forced global businesses to reevaluate their operations in the Chinese territory.

The bank’s management is looking at roles in a number of its business lines and operations, according to a person close to the bank. “It is [in the] early stages to find out who might want to go. . . but the process has started, ”the person added.

A second person close to the bank described the process as “contingency planning” and said the moves could be permanent or temporary while Covid-19 travel restrictions continue.

It is not yet known how many people will be relocated and a wholesale relocation of any business or operation is unlikely. Bank of America declined to comment.

The review, according to the people, is being coordinated by Richard Yacenda, the bank’s chief operating officer for Asia-Pacific. It will also consider the tax and regulatory issues associated with the shift of some job roles.

That of Hong Kong strict coronavirus regime, which includes a 21-day quarantine for international arrivals, has made it increasingly difficult for drivers to use the city as a regional center. Passenger flights to eight countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have been banned and air freight services reduced.

The Omicron outbreak has increased pressure on the region’s zero-Covid strategy, with Hong Kong tightening pandemic control this month. International business groups have expressed concern that the city has not articulated an exit strategy and is becoming cut off from the worldleading to an exodus of talent and problems for global businesses recruiting from overseas.

In October, global banks warned the Hong Kong government that the area’s status as an international financial center was jeopardized due to the “highly restrictive” coronavirus policies that stifled foreign travel.

Wells Fargo, America’s fourth largest bank by assets, was quietly working on a plan last year to moves its Asian regional center from Hong Kong to Singapore as part of wider restructuring efforts.

Bonus season – which runs from now until April at global banks – has raised fears of retirement among both foreign and local workers who have not been able to travel freely for two years.

After reporting record profits in 2021, Bank of America is handing out the biggest salary awards since it began handing out additional bonuses linked to company performance six years ago, according to an internal memo sent by CEO Brian Moynihan on Tuesday and viewed by the Financial Times .

The bank will give 97 percent of its 208,000 employees limited share grants worth about $ 1 billion in total, but bankers will have to stay to earn their full payday. The special share awards will be settled in equal payments over four years from 2023.

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