HSBC expects the sale of its Canadian operations to Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2024, as the merger cleared its final hurdle on Thursday when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland authorized it.

Freeland’s green light came after the Competition Bureau approved the $13.5 billion deal in September.

The minister’s approval came with conditions imposed on RBC, including that none of HSBC Canada’s 4,000 employees be laid off within six months of the closing date, or two years for front-line staff.

RBC will also need to ensure that banking services continue to be provided in at least 33 HSBC Canada branches for four years.

In a brief update released on Friday, HSBC confirmed that it continues to make progress with RBC regarding the implementation of the transaction.

Many people had called for RBC’s acquisition of HSBC Canada to be blocked, as they believed such a merger would harm competition in the already highly concentrated banking sector.

In an interview Thursday, RBC President and CEO Dave McKay maintained that there is strong competition in the banking sector and that the acquisition of HSBC Canada by his institution will not change that.