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Employee center in Depew reflects HSBC’s view of future

HSBC Bank USA may no longer have a branch network in upstate New York, but employees at its Depew offices now have the features of a branch right where they work.

The bank says its employee financial services center is more evidence of its commitment to the Buffalo workforce. And the format offers a glimpse of where HSBC’s leaders believe branches are headed, with an emphasis on technology and comfort.

Pablo Sanchez, head of retail banking and wealth management for HSBC Bank USA, visited Thursday to celebrate the opening of the center inside HSBC’s offices at Walden Avenue and Dick Road.

HSBC said the new center – the bank’s downtown Atrium has a smaller version – is an asset for HSBC employees and their families. They can drop by the offices to use a computer dedicated to HSBC online banking, conduct transactions at one of the two ATMs or meet with specialists about their personal finance needs. There is also a videoconference hookup in case employees need to talk with someone in another city.

The bank has about 3,000 employees in the Buffalo area, between the Depew site and the Atrium. While the bank left Buffalo’s tallest building that once bore its name and sold off its upstate branch network, it spent $35 million to renovate its Depew and Atrium facilities. And HSBC recently said that it would add a net total of 150 jobs locally, at a time when the London-based financial institution is cutting jobs globally.

HSBC is rolling out the employee financial services center idea here. Another one is on track to open at an HSBC location in Chicago in April 2016, and more could follow elsewhere.

The bank already had an employee financial services team based at the Depew site – the team’s members serve HSBC employees throughout the country – so it made sense to create a place on-site where employees could meet directly with those team members, said Mary Ellen Oare, senior vice president and area manager for the wealth contact center at HSBC’s Depew location. Sanchez backed the idea.

The employee financial services center doesn’t resemble a traditional branch, and Sanchez said that is the point.

“We’ve taken some of the things we already put into some of our more recent branches, in terms of the look and the feel and really having a place where people can self-serve, which a lot of customers now would rather do,” he said. “We have to look at it from mostly a customer behavior, but employees act the same way. They would much rather not have to stand in a line than go to something that they can ‘self-service’ on. A lot of that is being brought into the branch of the future for us.” And Sanchez said HSBC benefits in another way from making it easier for its employees to also be customers of the bank: “Eating our own cooking is the best way to make sure that we really put a product out to the customer that’s meaningful,” he said.

Sanchez, who is based in New York City, held town hall-style meetings with area employees Thursday. He said HSBC’s Buffalo-area workforce – which represents about 1 in 5 of the bank’s U.S. employees – is essential to the bank’s operations. Patrick J. Burke, CEO of HSBC Bank USA, recently said he sees opportunities for the bank to continue adding jobs here.

“Buffalo is kind of the nerve center of the place,” Sanchez said. “Obviously, we’ve got the headquarters in New York City, but where all the real work happens is here in Buffalo.”

“We have every operation, every function represented with their support here in Buffalo,” he said. “It’s a very meaningful place for us.”