International Banking Achievement Award for Asia 2010: HSBC

10/10/2010 |

EM Achievement awards are not designed to trumpet those banks with a full-service, pan-regional franchise. HSBC’s balance sheet strength, its 19th-century roots in Asia and its unparalleled global presence are now almost unremarkable facts of global finance. But HSBC is chosen for particular praise because of its aggressive plan to re-attach itself firmly to Asia’s growth engine.

Outgoing CEO Michael Geoghegan’s praise for China at every conceivable opportunity makes him a – forgivable – self-parody of an Asia bull. But this year, he has matched rhetoric with action. Geoghegan moved to Hong Kong last February, along with senior executives – a move, as outgoing chairman Stephen Green put it, that’s “both symbolic and practical”.

HSBC is positioning Asia at the forefront of its global business and bids to intermediate capital and trading flows between emerging regions, a strategy unlikely to change under incoming chief executive Stuart Gulliver. HSBC announced in July that it will buy the Indian retail and commercial businesses of Royal Bank of Scotland and will pay a premium of as much as $95 million over the tangible net asset value of the businesses when the deal closes in the first half of next year. The acquisition gives HSBC an extra 1.1 million customers in emerging Asia’s second-largest economy.

HSBC is banking on turbo-charged emerging economies to contribute 60% of the group’s top-line revenues in the coming years, with aggressive hiring sprees in its retail, corporate and investment arms. Its growing Asian presence also provides the bank with leverage to threaten western regulators with a move to the east if moves to break up global banking groups ever see the light of day.

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