By Sumeet Chatterjee
HONG KONG (Reuters) – The private banking business of HSBC Holdings PLC is aggressively pursuing double-digit growth in client assets and revenue, riffing off a surge in Asian wealth, the unit’s chief executive told Reuters.
Antonio Simoes also said the London-headquartered bank aims to increase its onshore presence in China, home to an eighth of all billionaires’ wealth worldwide and where it is one of the few global banks to operate a private banking business.
“The strategy to achieve double-digit asset and revenue growth is working,” said Simoes, who assumed his role in January. “And as part of that, Asia is by far the region that is growing the most.”
With higher economic growth, rapidly rising wages and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem producing rich clients at a pace faster than the West, Asia has emerged as the main battleground for global wealth managers.
Assets managed by HSBC’s private banking unit rose 9.4% in the first nine months of 2019 to $338 billion, while revenue rose 4.6% versus the same period a year earlier to $1.4 billion. The unit is the smallest contributor to group revenue at 3%.
Asia accounts for 42% of HSBC’s total private banking assets, making it the single largest market. The region also accounts for the biggest share of the bank’s overall revenue.
But six months of often violent pro-democracy protests that have convulsed Hong Kong – one of Asia’s two main wealth management hubs along with Singapore – have triggered concern about rich clients looking for alternative centres.
Simoes, however, said his business in the Chinese territory had not been impacted.
“Our third-quarter results showed very resilient performance for Hong Kong against the backdrop of what’s happening,” he said. “From a private banking perspective, we continue to have targets for Hong Kong that are very ambitious.”
Simoes said the private banking business was sticking to its target announced last year of adding 700 people to its Asia unit by 2022 from a headcount of 1,100 at the end of 2017. Three hundred bankers have already been hired so far, he said.
HSBC’s private banking growth plans come as interim CEO Noel Quinn reviews the lender’s worldwide businesses as part of an audition for the full-time role under Chairman Mark Tucker.
Global wealth managers looking to grow in China – where HSBC’s unit is present onshore in Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou – continue to consider an offshore business as the preferred route due to regulatory restrictions on investment products and a lack of sizeable physical branch networks.
“Going forward, we want to be bigger in onshore China and we are looking at how to do that as regulations change,” Simoes said.
“If you take a 10-year view, we will need to be bigger in onshore China.”
(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Christopher Cushing)