HSBC chief executive John Flint was in no mood for modesty when he visited Hong Kong earlier this week to deliver a strategy update. “Hong Kong is our biggest market and we’re its biggest bank,” he told analysts.
But while his message – for Hong Kong at least – was one of growth rather than restructuring, he also admitted that the local banking market is becoming “increasingly competitive”. HSBC will need to “adapt and invest” to increase its market share in the city, he added.
What does this mean for jobs at HSBC in Hong Kong? While a hiring boom isn’t on the cards, certain functions look set for expansion under Flint’s new plans. Here’s a selection of them.
HSBC is investing $15bn to $17bn into its business between 2018 and 2020. About two-thirds of this new money targets “growth and technology change”, the lion’s share of which focuses on “technology, digitisation and process improvement”. Technology hiring in Hong Kong – the city is one of HSBC’s main digital hubs – is expected to increase as a result. Which tech roles will be most in demand? Flint provided some hints: “We want to make better use of emerging technology in foreign exchange, and to bring securities services to more clients through more products and better digital services”. HSBC’s technologists are also working to “upgrade and digitise” trade-finance platforms. And the bank is “going to keep investing in digital payments” in Hong Kong, following the “success” of its PayMe app.
If you want to work in the front-office at HSBC in Hong Kong, particularly within investment banking and corporate banking, you will need to know the mainland market. Flint said targeting “non-resident Chinese customers who operate cross-border” is a “big revenue opportunity” in Hong Kong. He wants to “channel China outbound investments as Hong Kong becomes more connected to the mainland” and to use Hong Kong as a base to “connect China to international projects and investors”.
China’s Pearl River Delta (PRD), a sprawling megalopolis surrounding Hong Kong, has been central to HSBC’s Asian strategy since 2015, when the firm announced plans to hire 4,000 staff there. Although recruitment and revenue generation haven’t met initial targets, Flint now expects HSBC’s expansion in the PRD to “accelerate”. He promises to “keep investing” there in an effort to double revenue by the end of 2020. Not all of HSBC’s PRD jobs will be in retail and commercial banking. Since December, its PRD business has included HSBC Qianhai Securities, the first joint-venture securities company in mainland China to be majority owned by a foreign bank. The unit hired new bankers in the first quarter, and Flint pointed out this week that HSBC is now the only international bank in China to offer a “full range of investment banking products”.
Graduate and junior-level tech recruitment looks likely to increase at HSBC, which is “building a platform for future talent, particularly in technology”, according to Flint’s strategy update.
Like many of its rivals, in particular Citi, HSBC has been hiring China-desk bankers and support staff in markets, including Hong Kong, which are likely to benefit from China’s Belt and Road (B&R) global infrastructure initiative. The bank recently opened new China desks in Thailand, Macau, Poland and Luxembourg, taking its total to 24, according to its 2017 results. Now, HSBC has a new objective: become the place to work within B&R. By the end of 2020, Flint wants his firm to achieve “a number one ranking for Belt and Road among international banks”.
HSBC’s Private Bank and Retail Banking and Wealth Management unit is primed for expansion, especially in Hong Kong, Singapore and mainland China, markets where the firm already has an “established presence”. While most of the growth will be in wealth management (which serves less affluent clients), Flint also suggests there will be hiring in HSBC’s high-net-worth private bank. Having been “fundamentally restructured”, the private bank is now “back in growth mode”, according to Flint. “The early signs of growth from private banking are extremely promising. So I think that will grow at a quick rate, but from a small base.”
Like their counterparts at rival Asia-focused banks Standard Chartered and DBS, HSBC’s transaction bankers should consider themselves in demand. HSBC boasts the world’s largest transaction banking franchise and its products make up about 30% of the firm’s revenue. In global liquidity and cash management, HSBC has increased its Hong Kong market share to more than 26%, said Flint. In global trade and receivables finance, HSBC's market share has expanded “in key markets such as Hong Kong and Singapore”, he added.
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