Regional: Best International Bank 2020
There is no doubting HSBC’s strong foundations in the Middle East. The bank has been on the ground in the region for 131 years. It has offices and branches in countries including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Algeria and Egypt.
Its ability to link and connect them with branches in Asia and beyond is paramount to its success in both regions. It is a major reason why the bank, under the guidance of Martin Tricaud, group general manager, MENAT, was picked as Asiamoney’s best international bank in the Middle East. In 2019, the region was the UK lender’s second-largest profit centre outside Asia, generating $1.5 billion in pre-tax earnings.
As ever, the London-headquartered lender was involved in a host of big-ticket deals during the awards period, between April 1, 2019, and March 31, 2020. It played a central role in Saudi Aramco’s blockbuster $29.4 billion initial public offering and supported Saudi Arabia’s inclusion in the FTSE Russell and MSCI emerging markets indices. The bank also raised its stake in HSBC Saudi Arabia to 51%.
On the capital markets side, it was involved in a $4.1 billion capital-raising for Bahrain Petroleum and was the only bank included on both of Majid Al Futtaim’s green sukuk. HSBC played a leading role on the Islamic Development Bank’s $1.5 billion sustainability sukuk, which was the region’s first Covid-related issue.
It also showed it could innovate during the coronavirus pandemic. In February 2020, it launched Jade, a new bespoke bank account focusing on high net worth families with at least $1 million in investable assets.
HSBC recently merged its retail and private banking businesses.
HSBC won the award for best transaction bank in the Middle East by stepping up during Covid. In the first quarter of 2020, as the number of pandemic cases rose around the world and countries closed their borders, HSBC processed $15.8 billion worth of trade and worked to cut transaction times.
During the pandemic, it focused on contacting every customer in the region, and worked proactively to help them, whether by accelerating the rollout of digital services or delivering liquidity to those clients dealing with a temporary cash crunch. The bank reckons that in the space of a few weeks, at the height of the pandemic, it onboarded 615 customers to its online corporate banking platform, HSBCnet.
The bank’s big advantages are its scale and reach. Global clout is no longer the sine qua non of international-facing lenders; since the global financial crisis, many have shrunk their operations, and Covid-19 will continue that process.
But reach and presence do matter, if for no other reason than when a crisis hits, you are better placed to react.
By understanding how the pandemic spread from China into the rest of Asia, HSBC was able to work out how to deliver key services and funding to clients when Covid spread west.
Good communication, and learning lessons on the fly, were key to the bank continuing to deliver vital services in a seamless way to its retail and corporate customers across the Middle East.