It’s back to the City for HSBC. After two decades riding high in the HSBC Tower at Canada Square, the bank is moving its world headquarters to Panorama St Paul’s, Newgate Street, once home to BT. 

The St Paul’s building is much smaller than its 42-storey East London tower – designed specifically for the bank by Sir Norman Foster – down to 556,000 sq ft of space, compared with 1.8 million. It’s a downsizing move by HSBC because the number of staff coming into the office to work has not recovered since the pandemic. At its peak, around 8,000 worked in the tower. 

HSBC, which is cutting back around 40 per cent of office space around the world, hopes the Panorama building will create a more “flexible” space promoting the “wellbeing” of staff to allow for hybrid working.

Employers like HSBC are facing a challenge: employees have got used to working from home much of the week and when they do come to the office, they want to work in nicer surroundings. At the same time, polls show that up to a third of them would leave if they were not allowed the choice of WFA. 

Indeed, a recent survey by the Centre for Cities think tank found that office workers in the capital are choosing to spend just 59% of the time in their workplace compared with pre-Covid levels. 

The most common working pattern is now coming to the office between two to four days a week: around a third of workers come to the office two days a week while half of all workers choose to come in between four and five days a week. Younger workers – those in their twenties to thirties – prefer to go into the office. 

HSBC’s decision to migrate back closer to its roots is a big vote of confidence for the City, but also good news for office workers who mostly prefer working in the Square Mile to the docklands. The building at Newgate Street is right at the heart of the City – and not far from the majestic former headquarters of Midland Bank in Poultry which HSBC acquired in 1992. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1924, the architect went on to extend the building in the1930s when Midland Bank was the biggest deposit bank in the world, and known as the “palace of finance.” Today it has become home to the very posh Ned Hotel – named after the great architect – with ten restaurants, a public spa and bedrooms with “1920s glamour.”  No doubt HSBC workers will be popping by for drinks on the days that they do work.

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