Euromoney, December 10 2020
This is part of the Euromoney 25 series
HSBC has had a difficult 2020 navigating the challenges of Covid-19 and geopolitics.
Caught between the radically different interests of the US and China, and in an impossible situation in the fraught, pick-your-side environment of Hong Kong, it has had to tread exceptionally carefully.
The new three-year restructuring strategy chief executive Noel Quinn announced in February doesn’t sound particularly visionary – slash risk-weighted assets (RWAs), focus more on Asia, invest in technology and get more out of wealth – but visionary isn’t what’s needed for this bank at this point, so much as common sense and stability.
By the time the third-quarter results were announced in October, there were some signs of progress, certainly on the slashing side.
Having targeted $100 billion of gross RWA reductions by financial 2022 and $4.5 billion of cost reductions, Quinn now believed the bank was on track to do more, having made $41 billion of RWA and $600 million of cost savings already, partly by laying off 35,000 people over three years in the aftermath of the global pandemic.
The global banking and markets division, restructured and refined under co-heads Greg Guyett and Georges Elhedery, was responsible for much of the RWA reduction.
It is a source of some pride in that division that they have managed to keep not only revenue but risk flat through the Covid crisis in an environment in which many have had to take more risk for the same income.
Most of the RWA reductions have been in Europe and the US, with the North American business continuing to evolve.
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