HSBC has told its staff that it there will no pay rises and no new employees hired this year.
It is part of plans to make annual cost savings of up to $5 billion (4.6 billion euros) by 2017.
The bank – which is Europe’s largest – said last June that it was going to cut its workforce by almost 20 percent and shrink its investment bank by a third to boost profits.
The pay and hiring freeze comes just days after HSBC’s board met to consider whether to move its head office from London to Hong Kong and where it would focus its efforts.
Reportedly a decision on the headquarters location could come early next week.
Higher taxes and tighter regulation in Britain and a desire to be closer to faster-growing Asian markets were previously given as reasons for considering a move.
However some experts say there may not be major savings from such a relocation.
HSBC doesn’t declare much taxable profit in Britain as it offsets profits against costs, which include top management salaries and central support functions. Indeed it reported an accounting loss in Britain in 2014 and had a tax charge of just $69 million (62.4 million euros) for the year.
This is despite the fact that its British retail bank, which has tens of thousands of staff, produces what Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver said last August were “excellent returns”.
HSBC’s investment bank, which is headquartered in London, had profits of $8 billion in 2014, while its commercial bank, which also has a significant British presence, had profits of $9 billion.
French tax case to go forward
As the wage and hiring freeze was revealed, it was reported that HSBC had lost its appeal against the launch of a formal investigation in France into allegations it helped customers dodge tax.
The bank was put under formal investigation last year on suspicions that the parent did not exercise sufficient controls on the activities of its Swiss private bank in 2006 and 2007.
In France a formal investigation often, but not automatically, leads to a trial.
HSBC has admitted failings in controls at the Swiss private bank, but denied knowledge of wrongdoing.