When your CEO calls your department a “striking growth business” amid 35,000 job cuts, you know you’re probably working in the right part of the bank.
That’s how HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn described Asian wealth management earlier today, speaking after the publication of first-half results for the bank, which is currently making sweeping redundancies, mainly in the US and Europe.
Quinn said the firm is growing its wealth planner workforce in Asia “in phases” over the next four years. Much of this growth is focused on China, where the bank launched a digital wealth platform, Pinnacle, in June, said Quinn. The first batch of 100 “digitally-enabled wealth planners” have been on-boarded in Guangzhou and Shanghai, and the “plan is to reach 2,000-3,000 planners by 2024”, according to Quinn’s presentation slides.
China’s economic integration plans for the Greater Bay Area (which include a wealth connect scheme allowing Hong Kong banks to serve rich clients through the southern Chinese region) “only enhances” HSBC’s ambitions, said Quinn, adding that he expects Asian wealth to be a “strong franchise” for HSBC.
Separately from its mainland digital wealth hiring, we reported in March that HSBC also plans to recruit 500 private banking and wealth management staff across Asia by 2022, including an undisclosed but significant number of Hong Kong and Singapore-based private bankers. Quinn’s comments today suggest that Covid-19 has not thrown these plans off track.
HSBC has been making senior hires into its Hong Kong and Singapore wealth ranks throughout the first half, despite a hiring freeze on most jobs. In June, for example, we reported that ultra-high net worth banker Doreen Tan had joined the firm in Singapore from UOB. Hong Kong-based Greg Hingston, regional head of wealth and personal banking for APAC, told Reuters in May that HSBC wants to grow its market share in UHNW.
Despite the hiring, it was not a stellar quarter revenue-wise for HSBC in wealth. HSBC’s Asian numbers for WPB don’t split out wealth management, but globally Q2 revenues were flat year-on-year at $2.18bn. However, private banking assets in Asia stood at $154bn at the end of June, up 8% year-on-year. Since last month, wealth at HSBC has been housed in the new Wealth and Personal Banking department (WPB), incorporating both private banking and mass-affluent wealth management.
For WPB as a whole (i.e. including personal banking), Q2 Asian revenues were down 10% to $3.19bn. Revenues in Asian Commercial Banking fell 18% to $1.53bn, while in Global Banking and Markets they increased 10% to $1.97 as HSBC made strong trading profits.
CEO Quinn repeatedly described Asia as having a “resilient” quarter and first half, despite Covid-19. He said political tensions between the US and China, including over Hong Kong, were “challenging” but added that they had caused “no material impact of any sort” on the firm’s Asian business during H1. HSBC will continue with its strategy, announced in February, to reallocate resources from underperforming Western markets into its dominant Asian franchise, further suggesting the region will escape most of the 35,000 job cuts.
In Asia, HSBC generated profits of $7.3bn for H1, although as a group it only made $4.3bn, down from $12.4bn a year earlier, largely because of losses in Europe due to Covid-19 credit impairment charges.
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