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Sri Lanka's best international bank 2017: HSBC


One of the more fashionable things that a Sri Lankan can do is produce a foreign credit card to pick up the dinner tab for friends and family. And in Colombo’s smarter establishments, around one in two of those flourishes will feature an HSBC logo.

As the clear market leader in cards on the island, that solid fee income for HSBC helped bring in taxed profits of $54 million for the local unit in the nine months to September 2016. But it also hints that there’s more in the long-standing HSBC presence in Sri Lanka than credit cards.

As a full-service bank, HSBC is the preferred destination for wealthy Sri Lankans to have an each-way bet on a country emerging from a crippling civil war. Sri Lankan plutocrats have tended to keep their wealth offshore since their country plunged into war in 1983, and it’s to HSBC and, to a lesser extent, Standard Chartered they’ve flocked with their cash.

As Sri Lankans seek property back home, particularly in Colombo and along the coast, HSBC is enjoying that business too. The war ended eight years ago, but local banks still don’t have the same cachet, while old banking habits die hard – all good news for HSBC.

Of course HSBC’s expertise on the island extends into wholesale banking as well. It was, for example, a bookrunner on the sovereign’s $1.5 billion dual tranche issue in July.