Breakingviews

HSBC continues to wind back the clock

June 9, 2015

Four years since he started pruning the bank, CEO Stuart Gulliver is cutting risk-weighted assets by a quarter and shedding 50,000 employees. HSBC is returning to its roots as an Asia-focussed trade lender, though investors will have to wait almost three years to feel the effect.

UK taxpayers hurt more by EU split than HSBC exit

May 19, 2015

Deutsche Bank and its rivals could move operations out of London if Britons vote to leave the EU. That would dent the main source of UK tax from the financial sector - income tax on bankers. It’s a bigger loss than reduced bank levy receipts from HSBC moving its head office.

HSBC revival overshadowed by existential questions

May 5, 2015

Better investment banking revenue and fewer bad loans boosted the $194 bln bank’s quarterly results. That’s a welcome respite from the Swiss tax furore. Still, long-term fortunes rest on decisions about its shape, head office location and UK business. None will be resolved soon.

FX fines are wake-up call on self-policing

November 12, 2014

The $3.4 bln settlement for five banks works out on average at 20 pct higher than Libor – because the firms failed to mend their ways. Regulators are seeking yet tougher internal controls. Banks have a last chance to show they can treat clients fairly.

UK banks have much to fear from latest probe

July 18, 2014

Britain’s top antitrust watchdog has warned lenders to expect a full-blown competition investigation. Forced divestments would be a surprising outcome. But given the persistence of concern in spite of past probes, investors should brace for radical, profit-sapping remedies.

HSBC looks like best of a bad bunch

February 28, 2012

Scale, diversification and good management helped HSBC only so much in 2011. There were bright spots in Asia and parts of the investment bank. But the impact of the euro zone crisis was more powerful. While HSBC is bigger and better, it is, after all, still a bank.

HSBC held back by developed-world headaches

July 30, 2012

The bank’s earnings are strong enough to absorb a $2 billion charge for mis-selling in the UK and money-laundering in the U.S. After HSBC’s sub-prime woes, it’s another reputational stain. Yet the setback will only reinforce the bank’s strategic shift to emerging markets.

StanChart joins banking march into mire

August 6, 2012

New York regulators accuse the UK-based lender of covering up $250 bln of sanctions-busting transactions with Iran. It’s a big setback for one of the last global banks to have dodged financial and legal woes. Even just a fine for StanChart will leave the industry lacking halos.

HSBC still aiming at its moving targets

November 5, 2012

The emerging market bank’s costs are still above CEO Stuart Gulliver’s goal, and returns still below. One-off charges for UK mis-selling and U.S. money-laundering are partly to blame. But if these prove a recurring cost of doing business, HSBC’s targets may need adjusting.

HSBC needs to put numbers on China ambition

November 19, 2012

The emerging market lender is in talks to offload its $9.2 bln stake in insurer Ping An. A sale fits HSBC’s focus on capital efficiency. But now CEO Stuart Gulliver should explain why the bank’s even larger shareholding in Bank of Communications still makes financial sense.