HSBC has restarted a three-year plan to reduce its employee numbers by 35,000 to 200,000 that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It initially announced the programme back in February following a dramatic one-third fall in its annual profits. Chief executive Noel Quinn described the scheme as 'one of the deepest restructuring and simplification programmes in our history.'

But they were put on hold two months later, with the firm stating that it did not want to harm the wellbeing of their staff at a time of great uncertainty.

a person standing in front of a crowd: HSBC initially announced the restructuring programme back in February this year © Provided by This Is Money HSBC initially announced the restructuring programme back in February this year

HSBC had put aside £2.4billion to offset possible credit card and loan defaults during the Covid-19 crisis, which caused first-quarter profits to plummet by almost half to £2.6billion.? ?

Quinn, who took over as interim boss after John Flint's departure last August, told staff in an internal memo: 'We could not pause the job losses indefinitely - it was always a question of 'not if, but when.'

He added: 'I wish I could say that the next few months will see a return to normality, but that is unlikely to be the case.

'You will have seen that our profits fell in the first quarter and virtually all economic forecasts point to challenging times ahead. The reality is that the measures and the change we announced in February are even more necessary today.'

a man wearing a suit and tie: Noel Quinn: 'We could not pause the job losses indefinitely - it was always a question of 'not if, but when' © Provided by This Is Money Noel Quinn: 'We could not pause the job losses indefinitely - it was always a question of 'not if, but when'

The UK's largest bank estimates that the job cuts will save them about £3.6billion, but have not given full details about what divisions will be affected, though it said there would be 'meaningful' job cuts in the UK.

Before the global financial crisis in 2008-09, HSBC employed over 300,000 staff. Currently, they have about 40,000 workers in the UK.

Trade union Unite attacked HSBC's resumption of its restructuring programme, with Unite national officer Dominic Hook calling it 'extremely concerning' to his union.

Mike Pompeo wearing a suit and tie: US?Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised HSBC after it voiced support for a draft national security law in Hong Kong © Provided by This Is Money US?Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised HSBC after it voiced support for a draft national security law in Hong Kong

'The question that must be asked today is 'Why now HSBC?.' At present vast numbers of HSBC staff are making massive sacrifices working from home or taking risks travelling into offices and bank branches to help customers, why now?' he remarked.

Hook said the Unite union opposes all 'compulsory job losses' being made by the lender, whom he implored in his statement 'to stand by its workforce.'

HSBC has been the focus of considerable geopolitical attention in recent weeks after it voiced support for a draft national security law in Hong Kong.

The law has attracted huge protests in Hong Kong and HSBC's decision was condemned by politicians such as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Critics say the legislation will result in a major assault on civil liberties due to the vagueness.?It talks of criminalising acts of 'splittism, subversion, terrorism,' as well as 'foreign and overseas intervention in Hong Kong affairs.'

An open letter published today by 76 human rights groups and addressed to a senior Chinese politician called on China to scrap the proposed law. Signatories include Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Shares in HSBC were down half a per cent during mid-afternoon to 381.9p.? ?

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