HSBC’s results for the first half of 2018 lay bare the extent of the bank’s reliance on Asia. Led by Hong Kong, the region generated 87.6% of its pre-tax profits. Europe, by contrast, contributed 1%.
Regional profits in H2 rose across all of HSBC’s five core divisions, leading to a 23% total increase (to $9,380m) in Asia compared with a year ago.
Amid these overall numbers, however, HSBC’s report reveals some specific job functions that have been performing particularly well over the past six months or have benefited from substantial investment. Here’s where to work at HSBC in Asia.
HSBC Qianhai Securities, the first joint-venture securities company in mainland China to be majority owned by a foreign bank, was launched only in December. The unit hired new bankers in the first quarter, and HSBC has continued to invest in it. HSBC’s 4% rise in H2 operating expenses was partly driven by “investments to grow the business”, notably in Qianhai.
HSBC is investing $15bn to $17bn into its business between 2018 and 2020. Technology hiring in Hong Kong – the city is one of HSBC’s main digital hubs – is expected to increase as a result. Which tech skills will be most in demand? The bank’s H2 report provides some hints. In May, for example, HSBC executed the first ever “live trade finance transaction using scalable blockchain technology”. Last month the firm announced an expansion of its use of Google Cloud technology, “increasing access to some of the leading machine learning and data analytics technology”. Meanwhile, its Hong Kong-based PayMe app has acquired its millionth user as HSBC continues to invest in “digital capabilities” within its retail banking and wealth management division.
This is an emerging job sector for HSBC. One the bank’s new “strategic priorities” for Asia is to support the “transition to a low-carbon economy” and it is targeting $100bn in sustainable financing and investment by 2020. Earlier this year, HSBC acted as green structuring adviser on a $1.25bn green sukuk bond for the Republic of Indonesia, the first ever international offering of green securities by an Asian sovereign.
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 singled out B&R as another strategic priority and it wants to be the leading international bank within the sector by 2020.
While many firms use Singapore as their Asian private banking hub, HSBC remains focused on Hong Kong. HSBC’s global private banking division made a profit of $177m for the first half of 2018 in Hong Kong (up from $129m a year ago), but only mustered $22m in Singapore.
Securities services, part of HSBC’s global banking and markets division, achieved double-digit revenue growth in the first half. Its team in Asia was “primarily” responsible for the expansion, according to HSBC’s earnings report.
Hong Kong and the US led a 20% revenue uplift in this division, “mainly reflecting wider margins and increased balances”.
Revenue inched up 2% in global trade and receivables finance, “driven by balance sheet growth in the UK and Asia, mainly in mainland China”.
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