HSBC's history
Establishment and early years
HSBC is named after its founding member, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, which was established in 1865 to finance the growing trade between Europe, India and China.

The inspiration behind the founding of the bank was Thomas Sutherland, a Scot who was then working for the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company. He realised that there was considerable demand for local banking facilities in Hong Kong and on the China coast, and he helped to establish the bank which opened in Hong Kong in March 1865 and in Shanghai a month later.

Soon after its formation, the bank began opening branches to expand the services it could offer customers. Although that network reached as far as Europe and North America, the emphasis was on building up representation in China and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. HSBC was a pioneer of modern banking practices in a number of countries – for instance, in 1888 it was the first bank to be established in Thailand, where it printed the country's first banknotes.

From the outset trade finance was a strong feature of the local and international business of the bank, an expertise that has been recognised throughout its history. Bullion, exchange, merchant banking and note issuing also played an important part. In 1874, the bank handled China's first public loan and thereafter issued most of China's public loans.

By the end of the century, after a strong period of growth and success under the leadership of Thomas Jackson (chief manager for most of that period from 1876 to 1902), the bank was the foremost financial institution in Asia.

Challenges and change

The 20th century saw challenges and change for HSBC. In the early years of the 20th century, HSBC widened the scope of its activities in the East. It became increasingly involved in the issuing of loans to national governments, especially in China, to finance modernisation and internal infrastructure projects such as railway building. The First World War brought disruption and dislocation to many businesses, but the 1920s saw a return to prosperity in the East as new industries were developed and trade in commodities such as rubber and tin soared. The bank's new head office in Hong Kong (1935) and the new buildings at major branches such as Bangkok (1921), Manila (1922) and Shanghai (1923) reflected this confidence.

The 1930s ushered in an era of uncertainty with economic recession and political turmoil in many of the bank's markets. In the Second World War, the majority of the bank's staff in the East became prisoners of war as the enemy advanced through Asia. The bank survived under the new leadership of Arthur Morse, and through its prudent policy of building up large reserves in peace time. At the end of the war, HSBC took on a key role in the reconstruction of the Hong Kong economy. Its support for the skills of newcomers to Hong Kong was especially vital to the upsurge in manufacturing in this period.

In other markets, however, HSBC needed to make major readjustments. Most of the mainland offices in China were closed between 1949 and 1955, leaving only the Shanghai office to continue its long and eventful service. These changes carried the risk that the bank was over-concentrating its interests in Hong Kong. The bank addressed this concern by diversifying through a series of alliances and acquisitions. The purchases of the Mercantile Bank and the British Bank of the Middle East in 1959 took HSBC into new pastures, and the formation of a merchant banking arm in 1972 extended its range of services. By the 1970s the bank had firmly developed a policy of expansion by acquisition or formation of subsidiaries with their own identities and expertise.

Making of the modern HSBC

In the later years of the 20th century HSBC moved from an important regional bank to one of the world's leading financial services organisations. This transition was achieved by a number of steps.

By the late 1970s HSBC's management had conceived the strategy of the 'three-legged stool' with the legs of the stool representing the three markets of the Asia-Pacific region, the USA and the UK. In the 1980s, the purchase of Marine Midland Bank in the USA represented the acquisition of the second leg of the stool. HSBC then sought a similar purchase in the UK. The initial target was the Royal Bank of Scotland but after this acquisition failed, attention turned to Midland Bank and a 14.9 per cent stake was taken in 1987. After creating a new holding company, HSBC Holdings plc in 1991, HSBC then made a recommended offer for full ownership of Midland in July 1992. The third leg was in place. As a result of the formation of the new holding company and the acquisition of Midland Bank, HSBC became headquartered in London.

HSBC continued to grow through a number of acquisitions across the globe. In November 1998, HSBC announced the adoption of a unified brand, using HSBC and the hexagon symbol everywhere it operated, with the aim of enhancing recognition of HSBC by customers, shareholders and staff throughout the world.

In the 21st century, HSBC has renewed its focus on its birthplace, growing its business in China both organically and through a series of strategic partnerships. HSBC's diversification and its core values of financial strength and stability have stood it in good stead in the recent global turbulence in economies and markets, and it remains well placed to deal with an uncertain world


HSBC Holdings plc - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on HSBC Holdings plc

8 Canada Square
United Kingdom
Company Perspectives

We believe long-term success and good corporate behaviour are linked. Corporate Social Responsibility has been a vital ingredient in HSBC's 140 years of success. We have always maintained that a company's first social responsibility is to be successful. Success allows us to invest in new products and services for our customers. It enables us to pay the dividends which form an important part of the long-term savings and pension plans of our shareholders. It allows us to contribute to public services through the taxes we pay to governments. It creates jobs for our colleagues and suppliers.

History of HSBC Holdings plc

A leading international banking group, HSBC Holdings plc (also referred to as the HSBC Group) operates in about 80 countries and offers comprehensive financial services encompassing not only commercial and merchant banking but also capital markets, consumer finance, securities, investments, and insurance. The HSBC Group is increasingly international in nature, despite the group still being centered around the bank from which it evolved (and from which it gained its acronymic name)--The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd., the top bank in Hong Kong, known colloquially as HongkongBank.

HSBC has 9,500 offices spread out across five continents serving 120 million customers. While a growing force in many areas of the world, the group is especially notable for its longstanding presence in China, where it has been active since 1865. Its foreign subsidiaries are among the leading banks in Canada, France, Mexico, and other countries.

Founding of HongkongBank

The history of HSBC begins with the founding of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company, Ltd. in 1865. In the early 1860s, Hong Kong's financial needs were served by European trading houses called "hongs." This system proved increasingly inadequate as the colony's bustling trade--primarily in tea, silk, and opium--burgeoned. By 1864 the first proper banks had been established, but as these were based in London or India and controlled from abroad, there was a growing feeling that a local bank was needed in the colony.

Dissatisfaction led to action when it was discovered that a group of Bombay financiers intended to set up a "Bank of China" in Hong Kong, and that this bank, chartered in London, was to offer only a small proportion of its shares to China coast businesses. Thomas Sutherland, the Hong Kong Superintendent of the Peninsula and Orient Steam Navigation Company, proposed the foundation of a new bank modeled on "sound Scottish banking principles." The proposal was promptly taken up by others of the Hong Kong business community; within days a provisional committee had established a banking cooperative capitalized at HKD 5 million. The move effectively preempted the proposed "Bank of China," whose representative, when he arrived later in Hong Kong, could find no market for his shares.

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company Ltd. opened on March 3, 1865, with a second branch inaugurated in Shanghai on April 3. A London office was opened later in the year. Members of the cooperative included American, German, Scandinavian, and Parsee Indian merchant houses, as well as representatives from the Bombay-based David Sassoon & Company and Hong Kong-based Dent & Company. The largest companies in Hong Kong, Jardine Matheson and the American firm Russell & Company, were not represented. The highly favorable response to the bank by foreign interests and compradores (native businessmen who acted as intermediaries with the Chinese community), however, led both to reconsider and join.

An international financial crisis in 1865-66 could have destroyed the bank. Instead, with financial support from its members, the bank took over the operations of failed competitors and hired their staff. Dent, meanwhile, the dominant Hong Kong member of the group, went bankrupt. Instead of hurting the cooperative, however, Dent's failure allowed broader representation by more diverse local interests.

Initially, the bank was established under the local Companies Ordinance as the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company Ltd. Under the colonial law of the time, a bank had to incorporate either under a royal charter in compliance with the Colonial Banking Regulations or else according to British banking legislation. The bank's founders objected to these options, however, as they had particularly designed their enterprise as a local concern. Eventually a deal was struck with the Treasury whereby the bank (renamed The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation), under a unique ordinance, could retain Hong Kong headquarters while complying with the Colonial Banking Regulations.

Expanding Rapidly in the Late 19th Century

HongkongBank expanded rapidly throughout the 19th century. By 1900, it had branches in Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, and the countries now known as Malaysia, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. In some Asian cities, HongkongBank was the first to usher in principles of modern Western banking and was indeed Thailand's very first bank, printing that country's first bank notes. In the United States and Europe, HongkongBank branches opened in San Francisco in 1875, New York in 1880, Lyons in 1881, and Hamburg in 1889. Except in New York, where a Canadian bank already operated, HongkongBank was the first foreign bank in each of these cities.

In Hong Kong, operations experienced a setback in the 1870s when the bank made some unwise investments in local Hong Kong industry--its reserves fell from HKD 1 million to HKD 100,000--but the company soon regained its footing under the leadership of a new chief manager, Thomas Jackson, who brought the bank back to a renewed emphasis on its field of expertise, trade finance. By the end of Jackson's reign, in 1902, HongkongBank's paid-up capital stood at HKD 10 million, and its published reserves at HKD 14.25 million, with additional estimated inner reserves of HKD 10 million.

The bank had, however, developed another lucrative role--that of banker to governments. By the 1880s, HongkongBank was operating in this capacity to the government of Hong Kong and had acquired the Treasury Chest (the British government's military and foreign service) business for China and Japan. In addition, the HongkongBank issued bank notes for Hong Kong and for the Straits Settlements (Singapore and Penang). Since these notes were not, at the time, legal tender, their popularity reflected the public's trust in HongkongBank. Through a powerful compradore in China, the bank established contacts with local officials in Tianjin and Beijing. The bank was later asked to issue a public loan on behalf of the Chinese government, and directed several more in ensuing years. While some of these loans financed China's war against Japan (1894-95) and the enforcement of peace during internal conflicts such as the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, the bulk was used for infrastructural projects such as railroads, coal mines, and shipping lines.

The bank was able to develop a very favorable rapport with the government and business interests in China mainly because it had a widespread presence in China and was incorporated in Hong Kong. By 1910 it was the favored intermediary of the multinational China Consortium, a result of the demonstrated effectiveness of the Bank's London manager, Sir Charles Addis.

World Wars Leading to Numerous Difficulties

World War I deeply divided the bank, still well represented by both Germans and Britons. The German members of its board, identified in the press as "hostile interests," eventually resigned, marking a more or less permanent end to German participation in the company. Still, the bank's Hamburg office remained open for the duration of the war.

The high price of silver after the war led the bank to make a rights issue to finance an expansion. Chief Manager A.G. Stephen presided over the construction of new facilities in Hankow, Bangkok, Manila, and especially Shanghai, where a new office was opened in 1923. An office opened in Vladivostok in 1918 but was forced to close in 1924, when Russian revolutionary forces completed their consolidation of control over Siberia.

The optimism of the early 1920s crashed after 1929 and continued to deteriorate through the 1930s, as Japanese interests moved into China, this time supported by Japanese guns. At first, the Japanese domination of China was limited to the rich hinterlands of Manchuria and consisted mainly of the commercial exploitation of resources. While the bank was permitted to establish offices in the Manchurian cities of Dairen, Mukden, and Harbin, its operations were limited only to foreign trade. Meanwhile, in the rest of China, the bank experienced new competition from an increasingly sophisticated Chinese banking community.

At the same time, the bank was losing business from the Philippine government and was discriminated against in Indonesia and Vietnam by Dutch and French colonial authorities. Despite generous lending and other support tactics for customers involved in rubber and other volatile commodities trades, bank profits continued to deteriorate. In many cases, competitors complained that the bank's extraordinary care "exceeded the limits of prudent lending." The bank was, however, founded on cooperative precepts, and continued to operate on that basis. Still, it was the shareholders who suffered; shareholders' funds fell from £9.1 million in 1918 to £8.6 million in 1940.

The number of Hong Kong dollars in circulation, 80 percent of which was printed by the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank, increased from HKD 50 million in 1927 to HKD 200 million in 1940. In effect, the bank backed HKD 160 million of the colony's currency--a dangerous exposure to the local economy, despite transferring the currency from a silver to sterling standard. The bank became involved in an even more unmanageable currency-stabilization effort in Shanghai, from which it eventually had to bow out, turning the scheme over to a government board.

The Japanese occupation of China, meanwhile, had become extremely brutal. Terror bombings, invasion, and a Japanese military riot in Nanking stifled commerce in China and isolated Hong Kong from its Chinese hinterland. Sensing imminent danger, the bank's chief manager, Vandeleur Grayburn, authorized the immediate transfer of silver reserves into sterling assets in London. On December 8, 1940, shortly after completing the transfer, Japanese troops stormed through Hong Kong's New Territories, and on December 25 won a surrender.

Bank employees in Manchuria, Japan, and Indochina were repatriated, and those in Burma and Singapore escaped to India. Employees in China, particularly Foochow, managed to reach Chungking, where the bank opened a formal office in 1943. The staff in Hong Kong was much less fortunate; most of them who were of European descent were imprisoned.

Under prearranged orders from Grayburn, the bank's London manager, Arthur Morse, assumed managerial control of the bank. Morse transferred the dollar-denominated assets located in Hong Kong to London, fearing that if the Japanese gained control of them, the assets would be frozen by the U.S. government. In light of the circumstances--the bank's board was interned in Hong Kong--Morse was named both chief manager and chairman. During the occupation, Japanese authorities forced the bank to issue additional currency in order to support the local economy. Grayburn and his designated successor, D.C. Edmonston, meanwhile, died in prison.

The war ended so suddenly in August 1945 that Hong Kong remained occupied when Japan surrendered. With colonial authorities back in control, the bank began the difficult and costly task of rebuilding. The amortization of bank notes issued under the occupation cost HKD 16 million, and new legislation only permitted the bank to collect debts from enemy interests in depreciated occupation currencies.

Postwar Recovery and Expansion

Despite its weakened condition, the bank played a major role in the reconstruction of Hong Kong, a task Morse began planning well before the war ended. All the company's branches were reopened--with the exception of Hamburg which, again, had remained open during the war--including those in Japan. By 1947, however, new problems arose in China, where the wartime alliance between Chiang Kai-shek's nationalists and Mao Tse-tung's communists had degenerated into a civil war. The immediate effects were severe inflation and increasing public disorder.

By October 1949 the communists had gained control of the mainland and the nationalists had fled to Taiwan. When an initial plea by the communists for reconstruction in cooperation with capitalists was suddenly reversed in 1950, industrialists fled China--especially Shanghai--for Hong Kong. The bank maintained offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Shantou until 1955, when all but the Shanghai branch were closed. The Chinese, it seemed, preferred to do all their business through Hong Kong.

After the war, the British government practiced a "non-extractive" economic policy in Hong Kong, which, coupled with the entrepreneurial talent of industrialists transplanted from Shanghai and a labor force swelled by thousands of mainland refugees, created a powerful economic base.

The bank financed hundreds of new ventures that helped the colony achieve unprecedented export-led growth. The growth of the textile industry in Hong Kong, however, led the bank to fear that it had become overexposed to that one industry.

Under Michael Turner, the HongkongBank adopted a new strategy of expansion using subsidiaries during the mid-1950s.

 Initially made necessary by American banking legislation, the subsidiary form of organization was first used in 1955 to establish a branch in California--one step toward reducing its dependence on Hong Kong.

Because Britain relinquished much of its empire after the war, British companies were forced to rationalize, by merger, acquisition, or nationalization.

Indeed, many went bankrupt.

Two such companies, the Mercantile Bank (formerly the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London, and China) and the British Bank of the Middle East (known as BBME, formerly the Imperial Bank of Persia), were purchased by the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank in 1959.

The addition of the Mercantile Bank, with an extensive branch network in India, and the BBME, strongly represented in the Persian Gulf, made the HongkongBank the largest foreign bank in most of the countries from the Far East to southwest Asia.

Having reduced its exposure to Hong Kong, the bank moved next to diversify operationally.

 In 1960 it created Wayfoong, a consumer financing group whose name translates loosely as "focus of wealth."

A banking crisis in Hong Kong in 1964 led to a serious run on a competitor, the Hang Seng Bank.

 As the primary financial institution in Hong Kong and de facto central bank, the HongkongBank, while under no statutory duty to do so, acquired a majority interest in Hang Seng in 1965.

Hang Seng subsequently recovered, and was the second largest bank incorporated in Hong Kong into the 1990s.

The HongkongBank's expansion through subsidiaries began in earnest with the creation in 1972 of Wardley Ltd., a merchant bank, and an insurance company called Carlingford.

The bank also made numerous other investments--in Cathay Pacific Airways, the World-Wide shipping group, and the South China Morning Post.

All these investments proved highly profitable in light of Hong Kong's rapid economic growth.

In addition, the BBME benefited greatly from the newly prosperous oil-based economies in the Persian Gulf.

In 1978, however, BBME branches in Saudi Arabia were taken over by the Saudi British Bank, a Saudi-controlled bank in which BBME retained management control, but only 40 percent ownership.

Under the leadership of Michael Sandberg, the HongkongBank reexamined its position in America as part of a wider strategy to gain greater representation in the major Western economies.

 The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank of California was sold and the bank purchased a 51 percent share of Marine Midland Bank, a Buffalo, New York-based bank holding company, in 1980.

 The HongkongBank bought the outstanding shares of Marine Midland in 1987.

This acquisition inspired substantial debate in the U.S. Congress about whether banking laws should be strengthened to prevent foreign companies from gaining control over American banks.

The bank expanded in several ways during 1980.

In China, the Shanghai branch was expanded and a representative office was established in Beijing.

In addition, the BBME relocated from London to Hong Kong, and the bank gained control of Concord International, a leasing and finance group, and Anthony Gibbs, a British merchant bank.

The following year, a Canadian subsidiary, the Hongkong Bank of Canada, was established in Vancouver.

 In 1986 the Hongkong Bank of Canada acquired the business of the Bank of British Columbia, bringing the number of branches across Canada to 61.

A bidding war over the Royal Bank of Scotland Group between the HongkongBank and Standard & Chartered (issuer of Hong Kong's other currency) was halted in 1981 by the British Monopolies & Mergers Commission, which ruled against both bids.

 Meanwhile, the bank succeeded in establishing a presence in Africa in 1981 through the acquisition of a controlling interest in Equator Bank by its merchant bank subsidiary Wardley;

 in Cyprus in 1982, also primarily through Wardley;

and in Australia in 1985, when it established HongkongBank of Australia.

Back in North America, HongkongBank entered into a strategic alliance with California-based Wells Fargo Bank in 1989.

Also that year, HongkongBank was registered under the Hong Kong Companies Ordinance, at which time it adopted the name The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd.

HongkongBank's expansionist policies were not always successful. Its acquisition of Marine Midland, said initially to have boosted the bank's assets from HKD 125.3 billion to HKD 243 billion, soon proved a debacle.

Ill-advised forays into real estate and Latin American lending led to significant losses, prompting the parent company in 1991 to completely overhaul its subsidiary--at a purported cost of $1.8 billion.

Other high-profile failures of the 1980s included the bank's financing of an Australian tycoon, Alan Bond, who went bankrupt.

Forming HSBC Holdings plc in 1991

In 1984 Great Britain and the People's Republic of China signed a historic agreement, slating for July 1, 1997, the return of Hong Kong to Chinese control, and providing added impetus to HongkongBank's overseas expansion.

Keen to beef up its presence in Europe, the bank acquired James Capel, a leading U.K. securities firm, in 1986.

Of still greater importance was the beginning in December 1987 of an association between HongkongBank and Midland Bank, one of four major British clearing banks.

In December 1987 HongkongBank made the friendly acquisition of 14.9 percent of Midland's stock, agreeing not to increase its stake in Midland until the expiration of a three-year agreement in December 1990.

Staking its future in Europe to that of Midland, HongkongBank transferred control of its branches on the European continent to Midland and in turn acquired Midland's branches in Canada and South Korea.

In 1990 Hongkong Bank of Canada expanded still further through the purchase of Lloyds Bank Canada, becoming the seventh largest bank in Canada by the early 1990s.

HongkongBank and Midland entered into merger talks in 1990, but the talks broke off late in the year because of what were termed "financial difficulties." Nevertheless, HongkongBank held onto its stake in Midland following the expiration of the three-year agreement.

Like many Hong Kong-based companies facing the uncertainties of 1997, HongkongBank made some major organizational changes well before the handover.

In 1991 it created a new holding company, HSBC Holdings plc, making HongkongBank a subsidiary of the U.K.-incorporated but Hong Kong-based HSBC Holdings.

HSBC stock was set up on both the London and Hong Kong markets, showing the importance HongkongBank placed on Europe (and London) for its future.

For HongkongBank, the establishment of a new holding company relieved it of management responsibility for the group's more than 500 subsidiaries in 50 countries. The bank thus could focus primarily on the Asia-Pacific region it knew so well.

HSBC completed the long-anticipated takeover of Midland in 1992, gaining full control of what became its flagship in Europe.

HSBC made an initial friendly offer in March for Midland. The following month Lloyds stepped in with a larger, hostile offer. HSBC soon put an end to the takeover battle with a 480p per share offer in June, prompting Lloyds to bow out.

HSBC ended up paying £3.9 billion ($7.2 billion) to acquire Midland.

As a condition of the acquisition, HSBC was required by the regulatory Bank of England to move its main office to London, which it did in January 1993.

 The headquarters of HongkongBank remained in Hong Kong.

The acquisition of Midland was a coup, providing HSBC with the significant presence in Europe it had previously lacked.

Variously described as a merger and a takeover, the amalgamation virtually doubled HSBC's assets (from £86 billion to £170 billion) and workforce. The venerable Midland, the U.K.'s third largest bank, was not performing to standard at that time, being the least profitable of Britain's "big four" banks. Nevertheless, the financial health and the international experience of the parent company began attracting larger corporate customers to Midland.

In addition, many individuals were subsequently won over by the telephone banking service, First Direct, introduced by Midland in 1989 and strongly backed by HSBC. HSBC's lead in technology--used, for example, to automate credit decisions and limit staff expenditure--also played a part in Midland's recovery.

Although under the HSBC umbrella structure individual subsidiaries acted, in large part, autonomously, the company also moved to coordinate some operations.

Soon after the takeover of Midland, HSBC integrated its treasury operations in London, New York, and Tokyo and established common technological standards.

Also in 1992 HSBC opened a trading room in London for the dealing business of Midland, James Capel, and HSBC Greenwell.

This became the largest treasury trading operation in Europe.

That year also saw the establishment of the HSBC Investment Banking Group, which coordinated the merchant banking, securities, and asset management business (HSBC Asset Management) of the entire HSBC Group.

HongkongBank, which had long acted as a quasi-central bank, was relieved of some of these unofficial duties in 1992, when the Hong Kong Monetary Authority was established.

The following year HongkongBank divested its holding in Cathay Pacific Airways.

In 1994 it became the first foreign bank to incorporate locally in Malaysia through the establishment of Hongkong Bank Malaysia Berhad.

 In the mid-1990s the bank greatly expanded its personal banking business through the opening or upgrading of personal banking units in Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Mauritius, New Zealand, the Philippines, Saipan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, and Thailand.

The bank also expanded its presence in China during this period, maintaining good relations with the Chinese government--which was extremely important as 1997 approached.

HSBC Holdings continued to expand in the mid-1990s under the leadership of Chief Executive John Bond.

In 1995 HSBC and Wells Fargo established Wells Fargo HSBC Trade Bank in California, a joint venture (40 percent owned by HSBC) providing trade finance and international banking services in the United States.

 Marine Midland was bolstered in 1996 with the acquisition of Rochester, New York-based First Federal Savings and Loan Association for $620 million.

 Latin America was the subject of several 1997 transactions:

the purchase of a 10 percent stake in Banco del Sur del Peru; the founding of a new subsidiary in Brazil, Banco HSBC Bamerindus S.A., which took over assets of Banco Bamerindus do Brasil;

the increase in investment in Banco Santiago in Chile to 6.99 percent;

the acquisition of Roberts S.A. de Inversiones of Argentina (renamed HSBC Roberts S.A. de Inversiones);

 and the purchase of a 19.9 percent stake in Grupo Financiero Serfin of Mexico.

Although HSBC seemed to suffer no ill effects from the handover of Hong Kong to Chinese control on July 1, 1997, it did feel the effects of the Asian economic crisis of the late 1990s.

The group was particularly hard hit in troubled Indonesia, where it had to set aside about $2.5 billion in provisions for bad loans.

 Nevertheless, its earlier moves into Europe and the Americas paid off handsomely, as higher profits in these regions helped offset weaker results in Asia.

Meantime, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, in an attempt to thwart currency speculators, made a significant intervention in the Hong Kong Stock Market in August 1998, purchasing large stakes in several prominent companies.

The government of Hong Kong thereby became HSBC Holdings' single largest shareholder, with an 8.9 percent stake.

 In October 1998 HSBC announced that it had signed a 999-year lease for a new 1.1 million-square-foot headquarters building at Canary Wharf in London, scheduled for completion by early 2002.

 The following month HSBC said that it would unify the HSBC Group under the HSBC name and logo, thereby establishing a more global corporate identity.

Among the units whose marketing names would change to HSBC were Banco HSBC Bamerindus, the British Bank of the Middle East, Hongkong Bank Malaysia, Hongkong Bank of Australia, Hongkong Bank of Canada, HSBC Banco Roberts, Marine Midland, Midland Bank, HSBC Equator Bank, HSBC Investment Banking, and even the flagship HongkongBank itself. Eventually the legal names of many HSBC Group subsidiaries would also be changed. In a press release, Bond said: "We want the HSBC brand to be known in every country and in every sector in which we operate as synonymous with integrity, trust, and excellent customer service. I am confident that a unified brand and the strong recognition it will bring for HSBC's exceptional strengths is an important step forward as we work to maximise shareholder value." The implementation of this significant change was sure to require much of HSBC's attention at the onset of the 21st century.

HSBC shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999.

 Later in the year, the group bought Republic New York Corporation and Safra Republic Holdings S.A. Acquisitions also were giving HSBC a considerable presence in Europe.

The company bought Crédit Commercial de France (renamed CCF S.A. and ultimately HSBC France) for $11 billion in 2000.

 CCF had been formed in 1894 and operated 650 branch offices. In July 2000, when the deal closed, HSBC shares began trading on the Paris Stock Exchange.

HSBC bought out Australia's NRMA Building Society Ltd., Turkey's Demirbank, and Taiwan's China Securities Investment Trust Corporation in 2001.

It also was picking up minority shares in others such as the Bank of Shanghai and Ping An Insurance Company, China's second largest insurance provider.

Ping An underwent an initial public offering in 2004, diluting HSBC's stake to about 10 percent, but in August 2005 raised its holding to 19.9 percent at a cost of $1 billion.

"The World's Local Bank" in 2002

The company spent about $2 billion in 2002 to buy and recapitalize Mexico's Grupo Financiero Bital. HSBC gained 5.5 million new customers at 1,400 new branches. During the year, HSBC began billing itself as "The world's local bank." HSBC opened its impressive new headquarters at London's Canary Wharf in April 2003. About 8,000 employees were based there.

Part of HSBC's sensitivity to local cultures included support of environmental causes such as the World Wildlife Fund.

In December 2004, the company became the first bank to set the goal of becoming "carbon neutral," a status it achieved within a year.

In 2003, the group made a major acquisition in the United States, taking over Household International Inc., which had more than 1,300 branches and 53 million consumer finance and credit card customers.

In Brazil, HSBC also bought a leading consumer finance company, Losango Promotora de Vendas Limitada, as well as Banco Lloyds TSB S.A.-Banco Múltiplo.

Among other 2003 deals was the purchase of Keppel Insurance Pte Ltd., which supplied insurance in Singapore.

The mergers and acquisitions activity continued in 2004, adding the Bank of Bermuda Ltd. and Marks and Spencer's Retail Financial Services Holdings Ltd. (d/b/a M&S Money).

By this time, most of the group's existing subsidiaries had changed their names to include the HSBC initials.

Household International, renamed HSBC Finance Corporation, and others were combined into the HSBC North America unit.

China was the hub of much of the group's investment activity in 2005.

While raising its holding in Ping An Insurance, it also bought a 19.9 percent stake in Bank of Communications Ltd. HSBC was also opening new bank branches.

In March 2005, its Beijing branch began providing local currency services, a first for a foreign bank. Elsewhere in the world, U.S. credit card issuer Metris Companies Inc. was acquired by HSBC Finance for $1.6 billion in December 2005.

The group's chairman since 1988, Sir John Bond, was retiring in May 2006. He was leaving a much larger company than the one he had joined. HSBC posted pretax profits of $21 billion in 2005, up 11 percent from the previous year. Total assets were $1.5 trillion (£873 billion; HKD 11.65 trillion). The group employed a virtual army of 265,285 employees worldwide, serving nearly 100 million customers.

Principal Subsidiaries

The Bank of Bermuda Ltd.;

Hang Seng Bank Ltd. (Hong Kong; 62.14%);

HFC Bank Ltd.;

HSBC Asset Finance (UK) Ltd.;

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd. (Hong Kong);

HSBC Bank A.S. (Turkey);

 HSBC Bank Argentina S.A. (99.99%);

HSBC Bank Australia Ltd.;

HSBC Bank Brasil S.A. - Banco Múltiplo;

HSBC Bank Canada;

HSBC Bank Egypt S.A.E. (94.53%);

HSBC Bank Malaysia Berhad;

HSBC Bank Malta plc (70.03%);

HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd. (Jersey);

HSBC Bank plc;

HSBC Bank USA, N.A.;

HSBC La Buenos Aires Seguros S.A. (Argentina; 99.53%);

 HSBC Finance Corporation (United States);

HSBC France (formerly CCF S.A.) (99.99%);

HSBC Guyerzeller Bank AG (Switzerland);

 HSBC Insurance (Asia) Ltd. (Hong Kong);

HSBC Insurance Brokers Ltd.;

HSBC Investments (Taiwan) Ltd. (formerly HSBC Asset Management (Taiwan) Ltd.);

HSBC Investments (UK) Ltd. (formerly HSBC Asset Management (Europe) Ltd.);

HSBC Life (International) Ltd. (Bermuda);

HSBC Life (UK) Ltd.;

 HSBC Private Bank (Guernsey) Ltd. (Guernsey);

 HSBC Mexico S.A. (99.74%);

 HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) S.A.;

HSBC Private Bank (UK) Ltd.;

HSBC Securities (USA) Inc.;

HSBC Seguros (Brasil) S.A. (97.92%);

HSBC Technology & Services (USA) Inc.;

HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt KGaA (Germany; 77.89%);

Maxima S.A. AFJP (Argentina; 59.99%).

Principal Divisions


Hong Kong;

Rest of Asia-Pacific, including the Middle East and Africa;

North America;

South America.

Principal Operating Units

Grupo Financiero HSBC, S.A. de C.V. (99.8%); HSBC Bank plc;

HSBC France (Netherlands);

 HSBC Insurance Holdings Ltd.;

HSBC Investment Bank Holdings plc;

HSBC Latin America Holdings (UK) Ltd.;

HSBC North America Holdings Inc.

Principal Competitors

Lloyds TSB Group plc;

Barclays plc.


Key Dates
1865 Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company, Ltd. is established.
1918 Shareholders' funds are £9.1 million.
1940 The Japanese occupy Hong Kong during World War II.
1950 Mainland industrialists flee the communists to Hong Kong.
1959 HSBC buys London's Mercantile Bank and the British Bank of the Middle East.
1960 The bank forms the Wayfoong consumer financing group.
1972 Merchant bank subsidiary Wardley Ltd. is established.
1980 The California subsidiary is divested; HSBC acquires control of Buffalo, New York's Marine Midland Bank.
1991 Holding company HSBC Holdings plc is formed.
1992 Midland Bank, the United Kingdom's third largest, is acquired for £3.9 billion ($7.2 billion).
1997 The United Kingdom transfers control of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China.
2000 HSBC acquires venerable Crédit Commercial de France (CCF) for $11 billion.
2002 Mexico's Grupo Financiero Bital is acquired and recapitalized for $2 billion.
2003 A new headquarters is opened; Household International of the United States is acquired.
2004 HSBC acquires Bank of Bermuda and Marks & Spencer's retail financial services unit.
2005 Total assets are $1.5 trillion.
Additional Details

Public Company
Incorporated: 1865 as Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Company, Ltd.
Employees: 265,285
Total Assets: $1.50 trillion (2005)
Stock Exchanges: London Hong Kong New York Paris Bermuda
Ticker Symbols: HSBA; 005; HBC; PHSB
NAIC: 522110 Commercial Banking; 522120 Savings Institutions; 522292 Real Estate Credit; 522293 International Trade Financing; 523110 Investment Banking and Securities Dealing; 523920 Portfolio Management; 523930 Investment Advice; 523991 Trust, Fiduciary, and Custody Activities; 524110 Direct Life, Health, and Medical Insurance Carriers; 551111 Offices of Bank Holding Companies
Further Reference

Blanden, Michael, "After the Dust of Battle," Banker, August 1992, p. 36.
Chambers, Gillian, Hang Seng: The Evergrowing Bank, Hong Kong: Hang Seng Bank, 1991.
Collis, Maurice, Wayfoong: The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, London: Faber and Faber, 1965.
"An Empire at Risk," Economist, September 7, 1996, pp. 71-72.
Engardio, Pete, "Global Banker," Business Week, May 24, 1993, pp. 42-46.
Engardio, Pete, and Paula Dwyer, "Hongkong & Shanghai vs. the World," Business Week, August 7, 1995, pp. 59-60.
"Far Eastern Promise and the Global Gamble," Investors' Chronicle, January 29, 1993.
Graham, George, "HSBC Reaps Fruits of Growth Strategy," Financial Times, February 24, 1998, p. 26.
"Greater Than the Sum of His Parts," Financial Times, March 1, 1994.
Green, William, "Bland--And Proud of It," Forbes, July 7, 1997, pp. 94-96, 98-99.
Holmes, A. R., and Edwin Green, Midland: 150 Years of Banking Business, London: Batsford, 1986.
"HongkongBank's Global Gamble," Economist, March 21, 1992, pp. 107-08.
"Hong Kong/China Boom Spawns a Global Banking Colossus," QL Stockmarket Letter, July 1, 1993.
"HSBC Maps Strategy for US Market," South China Morning Post, January 14, 1993.
Irvine, Steve, "The Culture That Powers Hongkong Bank," Euromoney, February 1997, pp. 44+.
Jones, Geoffrey, The History of the British Bank of the Middle East, 2 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986-87.
King, Frank H. H., The History of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, 4 vols., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987-91.
------, The Hongkong Bank in the Period of Development and Nationalism, 1941-1984: From Regional Bank to Multinational Group, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
King, Frank H. H., ed., Eastern Banking: Essays in the History of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, London: Athlone Press, 1983.
King, Frank H. H., Catherine E. King, and David J. S. King, The Hongkong Bank Between the Wars and the Bank Interned, 1919-1945: Return from Grandeur, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
------, The Hongkong Bank in Late Imperial China, 1864-1902: On an Even Keel, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.
King, Frank H. H., David J. S. King, and Catherine E. King, The Hongkong Bank in the Period of Imperialism and War, 1895-1918: Wayfoong, the Focus of Wealth, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Leung, James, "HongkongBank Extends Personal Touch," Asian Business, February 1997, p. 22+.
"Loan Masters," Economist, August 28, 1993, pp. 65-66.
Lucas, Louise, "Hongkong Bank Chief to Quit in HSBC Rejig," Financial Times, October 16, 1998, p. 25.
------, "Profits Growth Limited at HongkongBank," Financial Times, August 5, 1997, p. 20.
Meyer, Richard, "Lessons from Buffalo," Financial World, July 23, 1991, pp. 37-39.
Morris, Kathleen, "Back to the Future," Financial World, June 20, 1995, pp. 42-44.
Muirhead, Stuart, Crisis Banking in the East: The History of the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China, 1853-93, Aldershot, England: Scolar Press, 1996.
Sender, Henny, and John McBeth, "Living Dangerously: Hongkong Bank Is Mired in an Indonesian Nightmare," Far Eastern Economic Review, February 29, 1996, pp. 52-53.
Silverman, Gary, "Look British, Think Chinese: Hongkong Bank Stays No. 1," Far Eastern Economic Review, December 28, 1995, pp. 64-65.
Tanzer, Andrew, "The Bank," Forbes, December 11, 1989, pp. 43-44.
Vander Weyer, Martin, "Hongkong Officer Corps Builds a Global Empire," Euromoney, April, 1993, pp. 52-56.
"Waiting for the Griffin to Pull Its Weight," Financial Times, March 16, 1993.
"You Organise Your Bank Around Your Customers," Daily Telegraph, March 22, 1993.
"Your Future Is Our Future," Hong Kong: The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd., 1997.

Take a journey through our 150-year story
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How did a local Hong Kong bank become one of the world’s largest financial services organisations? Read the story of HSBC’s birth and international expansion – and how it has been connecting customers to opportunities for more than 150 years.

Sir Thomas Sutherland, the founder of HSBC

The early years

A Scotsman in Hong Kong

Local bank opens to support trade

HSBC was founded by Thomas Sutherland, a young Scotsman working in Hong Kong for a large shipping firm. He had never held a bank account himself, but while sailing along the South China coast in 1864, he read an article on Scottish banking that inspired him. Local and foreign trade in Hong Kong and at ports in China and Japan had increased rapidly in the preceding few years, and Sutherland recognised that businesses needed better local banking facilities.

Sutherland decided to set up a bank that would be owned and managed locally and would support international trade. So the dynamic Scot created a prospectus and used his standing and connections in the Hong Kong business community to gain support for the venture. By the time the prospectus was published, Sutherland had the backing of 14 of the biggest firms operating in Hong Kong. The founding capital was HKD5 million, consisting of 20,000 shares at HKD250 each. The shares sold quickly and The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited was born.

HSBC’s first head office, Wardley House, photographed in 1870


The first branch

HSBC opened its doors in Hong Kong on 3 March 1865 and in Shanghai a month later. Its first office was in Wardley House (pictured above) at 1 Queen’s Road in the City of Victoria, the heart of Hong Kong’s Central district. The bank has built a series of head offices on the site since and 1 Queen’s Road Central remains the bank’s Hong Kong headquarters today. In July 1865, the bank opened an office in London to enable exchange operations with China and India and to help it recruit and train junior bankers.

The bank’s Chinese name, ‘Wayfoong’, printed on an early HSBC banknote


Early storm

Six of Hong Kong’s 11 foreign banks collapsed in early 1866 because of bank runs, with worried customers rushing to withdraw money from their accounts. HSBC survived and earned a reputation for resilience. The Chinese population of Hong Kong began to call HSBC ‘Wayfoong’ (written in Chinese above), which means “abundance of remittances” or “focus of wealth”.

A painting of Hong Kong harbour by a Chinese artist, early 1860s

A woodblock print from 1875 depicting the Japanese port of Yokohama

Vignette of the China tea trade from an early HSBC banknote


Spreading its wings

International trade has always been at the heart of HSBC’s business. By 1875, the bank had expanded into seven countries across Asia, Europe and North America. It opened branches in the ports of Yokohama, Japan (pictured above); Kolkata, India; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; and Manila, Philippines. The bank financed the export of a variety of exports including tea and silk from China, cotton and jute from India, and sugar from the Philippines.

Chief Manager Thomas Jackson pictured with other British HSBC staff in Hong Kong


Building the railways

The much-respected Thomas Jackson (seated, centre) was HSBC’s Chief Manager for three periods between 1876 and 1902. The bank prospered under his management and by the turn of the 20th century was operating in 16 countries and territories. It had also expanded its government finance business and had issued many loans for government railway and other infrastructure projects, including China’s first public loan in 1874.

HSBC managers and other bankers being marched through occupied Hong Kong in the Second World War


A difficult era

Surviving in challenging times

War and economic disruption inevitably meant that the first half of the 20th century was a difficult time for HSBC.

After the First World War, the bank expanded in Asian markets, where trade in rubber and tin was booming. The expansion of branches in Bangkok, Manila and Shanghai underlined its confidence in business in the region. But along with its customers, HSBC suffered during the Great Depression. In the 1930s, its inner reserves were drawn down and the bank focused most of its resources on survival rather than expansion. Staff bonuses were cut or cancelled and shareholder dividends were reduced.

The Second World War was an even tougher period for the bank. It survived thanks to its significant reserves and careful management, which allowed the business to retain a strong foundation for growth when peace returned.

Photographs of some of the 169 HSBC employees who joined the British forces during the First World War


War victims

Despite its focus on Asia, HSBC was still affected by the First World War. Forty of the 169 HSBC employees from the bank’s London office who joined the British forces during the war were killed or listed as missing in action. Conscription also meant there was a shortage of new recruits and staff were placed on extended postings.

A perspective drawing of the HSBC office on the Bund, Shanghai’s historic waterfront, completed in 1923

The entrance hall of HSBC’s 1923 Shanghai office


A new Shanghai office

Having played a key role in the development of China’s infrastructure in the late 19th century, HSBC was the leading foreign bank in China through the 1920s. In 1923 it opened a new office (above) on Shanghai’s famous waterfront area, the Bund. This featured a Venetian mosaic dome (pictured) and the first pair of HSBC’s famous lions, who were nicknamed Stephen and Stitt after senior managers from this era. The Shanghai branch financed local tea and silk exporters and provided foreign exchange services as well as funds to Chinese traders.

A photograph taken by an HSBC staff member after a bombing raid in Manila during the Second World War


Troubled war years

Following advances by the Japanese army in December 1941, including on Hong Kong, HSBC was forced to shut most of its network in Asia. Its employees often showed tremendous courage, sticking to their posts until the last minute to help customers access cash or send money abroad. Many British staff were captured and held as prisoners of war or were interned in civilian camps. The bank moved its head office to London on 16 December 1941.

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The war years (duration 10:31) Find out how HSBC staff around the world were affected by World War II

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Sir Vandeleur Grayburn, HSBC Chief Manager from 1930 until his death in 1943


Chief Manager dies

Sir Vandeleur Grayburn was HSBC’s Chief Manager in the 1930s and was known for his shrewd management style. In 1941 he was captured in Hong Kong by occupying troops and held at the Sun Wah Hotel. He tried to help staff interned in Stanley camp by smuggling in money for food and medical supplies, but these efforts were discovered. Grayburn died in prison in August 1943 from meningitis and septicaemia.

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Reinventing Hong Kong (duration 8:17) Find out about HSBC’s role in helping Hong Kong recover after the war years

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Photograph of a busy street illustrating Hong Kong’s manufacturing-led boom of the late 1940s and 1950s


Rebuilding the economy

Following the end of the war, HSBC moved its head office back to Hong Kong. It played a key role in the reconstruction of the local economy. Hong Kong was reinventing itself as a manufacturing centre and the bank began a new line of business granting loans to build cotton mills and textile factories.

Early 20th-century banknote issued by The British Bank of the Middle East


On the acquisition trail

Branching into new territories

The second half of the 20th century was a period of great change and growth for HSBC. During the 1950s the bank closed its China network – apart from its Shanghai branch – following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. This meant it had to adapt and diversify. The bank started to make its first acquisitions, such as The British Bank of the Middle East (BBME; pictured above is a banknote issued by BBME in the early 20th century). By the time of its centenary in 1965, HSBC had a network of 170 offices across the globe.

It continued to expand its presence in its birthplace too. In Hong Kong, the bank focused on retail banking and industrial financing in the 1960s and 1970s, opening a large branch network. The city had also become one of the world’s most important financial centres and foreign banks arrived to tap into the booming stock market. HSBC responded to competition by founding its own investment banking subsidiary, Wardley, in 1972.

The end of this period saw HSBC return to growing its business in China and establishing or buying new subsidiaries in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US.

Documents relating to the Chartered Mercantile Bank of India, London and China


India and the Middle East beckon

HSBC accelerated its transformation into a global business in 1959 when it bought The British Bank of the Middle East, a pioneer in the Gulf states. Later that year it also expanded its footprint in India with the acquisition of the Mercantile Bank.

Red and gold wall hangings showing ‘Hang Seng’ in Chinese characters


Hang Seng Bank rescue

Hang Seng Bank opened in Hong Kong in 1933. By the 1950s it was seen as the leading private Chinese bank. It became a public company in 1960. But in 1965 a crisis hit the Chinese banking sector which also affected Hang Seng. HSBC came to its rescue by taking a majority stake in the business.

An old Hang Seng Bank Limited logo

HSBC’s first computer, an IBM 360, is delivered to the bank’s Hong Kong office in 1967

Detail from a 1968 advert promoting HSBC’s new computer system


New technology

HSBC’s first computer, the IBM 360, arrived at the head office in Hong Kong in 1967, allowing the bank to computerise customers’ accounts. This revolutionised the way people could bank. For the first time, they could do their banking at any HSBC branch in Hong Kong.

A US Marine Midland Bank branch has an HSBC-branded sign installed


US deal secures global reach

In 1980, HSBC took an important step outside Asia when it bought a controlling stake in the American bank, Marine Midland. Marine had been established in Buffalo in 1850 to finance US trade in corn and wheat and had grown to become one of the most important banks in New York State. HSBC took full ownership in 1987, putting it on the path to becoming a truly global bank.

Detail from a 1980s HSBC brochure illustrating business opportunities in China


Rebuilding a presence in China

With a continuous presence in China since 1865, HSBC was well-positioned when, in the late 1970s, China started to open up to foreign investment again. In 1984, HSBC became the first foreign bank to be granted a banking licence in mainland China since 1949, for its branch in Shenzhen. Pictured above is a 1980s brochure illustrating business opportunities in China.

HSBC’s main building in Hong Kong, which opened in 1986


New head office in Hong Kong

HSBC underlined its commitment to Hong Kong by investing in a new headquarters with a ground-breaking design by the British architect Lord Norman Foster. The building’s construction required 27,000 tonnes of structural steel, one million square feet of cladding and up to 4,500 workers on site 24 hours a day. It opened in 1986.

One of HSBC’s famous lions outside the bank’s London headquarters

1990 to today

A truly global bank

After deals in the Middle East, India and the US, HSBC needed a strong foothold in Europe to transform itself into a truly international bank. In 1992, it achieved this by acquiring the UK’s Midland Bank.

The bank’s long experience and diversification helped it weather the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the global financial crisis of 2008 and the challenges that followed. In recent years it has implemented a series of closures and disposals that have made it easier to manage and better positioned to capitalise on growth opportunities as they emerge.

In China, however, it has grown: both organically, following the establishment of HSBC Bank China in 2007, and through a series of alliances with Chinese financial institutions.

Today HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations. Its three global businesses serve more than 40 million customers in 64 countries and territories. The bank’s global network, access to high-growth markets and balance sheet strength provide a platform for future growth.

A woman uses a Midland Bank-branded cash machine

Back-office staff in a Midland Bank branch in York, UK, 1928


Buying the listening bank

Midland Bank – whose slogan was ‘the listening bank’ – first opened for business in Birmingham in 1836. HSBC bought Midland in 1992 in one of the biggest deals in banking history. To comply with the conditions of the takeover, HSBC established HSBC Holdings plc in London as a parent company for the expanding group.

An HSBC hexagon sign outside a branch in Paris, France


A single global brand

In 1998, the bank decided to adopt a unified brand worldwide, using HSBC and its red-and-white hexagon logo everywhere it operated. The hexagon symbol was derived from the bank’s original house flag, which in turn was based on Scotland’s flag.

HSBC’s head office in Canary Wharf, London

London HQ completed

The construction of the bank’s new global headquarters began in 1999 in Canary Wharf, in London’s former docklands. They were designed by Lord Norman Foster, the same architect behind the HSBC building in Hong Kong. The 42-storey tower was completed in 2002 and features HSBC’s two famous lions outside its main entrance.

View of Pudong district, where HSBC opened its new Shanghai building in 2010

Focus on China
Since the start of the 21st century HSBC has expanded its business in China. The bank opened its new Shanghai headquarters in the city’s Pudong district in 2010, the same year it opened its 100th office in the country. And in 2017, HSBC Qianhai Securities Limited began operating – the first joint venture securities company in mainland China to be majority-owned by a foreign bank.

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The Birmingham 'cake slice' (duration 1:49) UK Archives Manager Jemma Lee explores what a 19th-century ceremonial trowel tells us about HSBC’s heritage

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HSBC UK opens HQ

In July 2018, the bank separated its UK retail banking business and most of its commercial banking business into a new entity called HSBC UK. The move was in response to the UK’s Financial Services (Banking Reform) Act 2013 which required that all banks ‘ring-fence’ their core banking services in the UK. The ring-fenced business opened its new environmentally friendly headquarters in Birmingham in November 2018.

Interior of the headquarters of HSBC UK at 1 Centenary Square, Birmingham
View of Pudong district, where HSBC opened its new Shanghai building in 2010
Back-office staff in a Midland Bank branch in York, UK, 1928


Supporting communities during COVID-19

HSBC has taken a range of measures to support coronavirus recovery efforts, ranging from relief for personal lending customers to extra lending for wholesale clients. Investment in technology has helped employees work from home and deliver a continuous service. The bank’s USD25 million charitable fund, meanwhile, is providing help where it is needed most.