Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: HSBC

Magazine article Management Today

Company Vitae: HSBC

Article excerpt

Why is the world's third largest bank threatening to move its HQ to Hong Kong?

Formative years

The clue is in the name - the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation began its life in 1865 as a commercial finance house operating in, you guessed it, Hong Kong (then a British colony) and Shanghai. It was founded by careful Scot Thomas Sutherland as a prudent bank operating on 'sound Scottish principles' to finance the growing trade between China and Europe - not least in opium.

The bank's HQ moved temporarily to London during WWII in anticipation of the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941. After the war, it expanded in India, the Middle East and America, and in 1964 it sealed its Asian market leadership by buying rival Hang Seng bank - after which Hong Kong's market index is named. But it wasn't until the formation of the HSBC Group in the 1980s and the subsequent acquisition of the Midland Bank, that HSBC became one of the UK's 'Big Four' clearing banks and a familiar sight on the high street.

Recent history

In the early 21st century, HSBC polished its halo by becoming one of the few banks to survive the global crash of 2008 without a government bail-out. Indeed at the height of the crisis its UK branches struggled to cope with the surge of panicked punters moving accounts from stricken rivals like RBS and Lloyds.

And despite a few lapses - US consumer finance giant Household International, bought for dollars 14bn in 2003, turned out to be worthless - HSBC has had a good decade. …

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