Singapore: HSBC Continues Looking East

HSBC is doubling down on Asia.

HSBC once touted itself as “the world’s local bank.” But if 2008 taught global banks anything, it’s that bigger isn’t necessarily better. Global ambitions in retail banking have fallen out of favor as banks focus on the more lucrative wealth management business.

HSBC, which is pulling out of retail banking in the US and France, purchased AXA Singapore for $575 million in a push to build a global wealth hub in Singapore and fuel its expansion across Southeast Asia.

The bank derives 84% of its profits from Asia, with Hong Kong and China accounting for 68%. In February, CEO Noel Quinn announced plans to “move the heart of the business to Asia, including leadership.” Still, the tension between the US and China over Hong Kong have forced the UK-headquartered bank to walk a tightrope as it continues its tilt toward Asia.

HSBC chairman Mark Tucker remained bullish about Sino-US relations, claiming during an August HSBC event at the Hong Kong Academy of Finance that China is too big to ignore.