“I’ve been fissure gassed a few times, but never when I was outside my office – popping out to get my lunch,” reveals one trader at HSBC.
He is describing the moment this week when Hong Kong’s protestations came to the central financial district , one of the world’s biggest commercial nuclei.
He says it was a watershed moment, that’s made him and many of his peers suspect their future in the city.
Speaking to the BBC under condition of anonymity, presidents at some of the biggest international banks and law firms said they are seeing their calling in Hong Kong shrink as the protests continue to escalate.
Financial repairs make up a fifth of Hong Kong’s economy and people come from all in excess of the world to live and work here. Its large expatriate community is drew by the low taxes, well-paid jobs, stability and high standards of living.
Notwithstanding how, the lure of prosperity and stability in the East Asian hub has been undermined in large measure since Hong Kong has been racked by five months of anti-government protests, approval increased democracy and opposing the actions of the police.
This last week where violence has intensified has assertive many firms reconsider the safety of their staff in the city.
One hedge store manager has even been given a panic button app in case of an pinch and plans are in place with his work to evacuate him and his family to another greater city “if we were in danger they have a team of people who see fit get us out”.
A banker at HSBC says only half of their staff emerge b be published in to the office on Friday as people are encouraged to work remotely if they can’t get in safely.
Rod are kept closely informed about the situation on the ground according to a BNP Paribas staff member “We get regular emails early in the morning and through the day from the business continuity board of directors team – telling us whether it’s safe to go into offices – and whether we should go family early.”
‘Pro-protester or pro-police’
Anecdotally, the political pressure from the Chinese regime on banks and law firms is also growing – and it’s putting pressure on staff.
Some pals in law firms are being asked to pin their colours to the mast and state whether they stomach the protesters or the Chinese government before winning business from Chinese firms.
Firms are call of pressure to keep a lid on their staff speaking in public about their observes.
One lawyer explains “I’ve been on calls where people are asked to verbally impart restraint and caution when sharing their views. Given the amount of individual we employ here, it’s a minor miracle nothing has happened”.
In the workplace, living soul are making informal rules not to discuss the subject within their bodies because emotions are running so high.
“Clearly it’s the only topic of chin-wag in the office, but opinions are so split,” one banker says.
“In my team of nine, three are Chinese and two are Hong Kong Chinese and the residuum are expats – it’s a bit like Brexit – we all have violently different views.”
A video on common media of a man who claims to work at Citigroup being arrested by police has been thoroughly shared in the banking community.
“This has scared people here – it detects you feel we could all get caught up in this”
A spokesperson for the US-headquartered banking series said: “We are investigating this incident and while investigations continue it would be unbefitting to comment further”.
Losing business to Singapore
One of the biggest concerns for economic firms is the impact all of this is having on the economy as its reputation for stability unravels.
A authority at one of the world’s biggest international banks says it expects its Hong Kong gain to be down by 25% in the last quarter of their financial year as a follow-up of the violence.
Many banks are now reviewing their investment plans in Hong Kong atop of the next few years “If we’re still talking about this in six months delay, people will start giving up on Hong Kong”
They are responsible that people who are planning major deals will now turn to banks and law firms in Singapore because, in the words of one, “it has a sundry predictable medium-term outlook”.
So far most of the business impact has been on stingy companies – restaurants for example. There is concern amongst bankers, hold up out in recent economic statistics, that this could spread more everywhere.
“The classic company we deal with would be lending money to a Chinese shipping corporation that does its financial transactions through HK. They rely on a flourishing business environment in Hong Kong. Now we worry they will go bankrupt”.