Is HSBC the new Goldman Sachs?

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Before anyone complains that HSBC pays atrocious bonuses, serves coffee in plastic cups, is trying to raise a record 12.5bn in additional capital and has seen its stock plunge 20% in a single day, it's worth re-examining some facts.

Not only did HSBC pay between 11.7m and 11.8m to what appear to be two 'star traders,' its global banking and markets division also pulled in a profit last year.

Admittedly, profit for the division was down 43% on 2007, but this was better than Goldman which saw an 82% drop over the same period. It was also a lot, lot, better than Deutsche, UBS, RBS, JPMorgan, Credit Suisse, and almost any other bank you care to name, most of which made a loss in their investment banking businesses in 2008.

And while investment banking and markets divisions at most houses are being vilified for bleeding the gains made by old fashioned banking operations, global banking and markets at HSBC is becoming more important as a profit centre - it generated 37% of net income in 2008, compared to 25% in 2007.

HSBC attributed its success to record revenues in FX, rates, balance sheet management, financing, and equity capital markets. And like various other houses, it said performance this year had been 'ahead of expectations.'

All of this might suggest that if you're in global banking and markets, HSBC is suddenly the place to work.

However, to get ahead at HSBC, you'll probably need to be based in Asia Pac, excluding Hong Kong, where GBM profits rose 54% last year. By comparison, North America was heavily in the red and European profitability plunged more than 90%.

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