(This version of the April 9 story corrects paragraph 6 to say mainland China retail bank unit made $44 million loss in 2017, removes incorrect year-on-year comparison)
LONDON (Reuters) - HSBC (HSBA.L) (0005.HK) will seek to cut internal bureaucracy and expand investment in China’s southern region to the rest of the country, executives at the bank said on Monday, in the first hints of the strategy to be pursued by its new leadership duo.
Mark Tucker, the bank’s first externally appointed chairman, told analysts and investors at a meeting in Hong Kong that trimming the bank’s bloated governance structure was one of his top priorities.
Tucker, who took over as chairman last October, has already cut the lender’s board from over 20 people down to 14 and plans to slash more committees and processes, according to analysts present at the meeting.
The presentation, meanwhile, offered the first sign for investors that the bank’s new Chief Executive John Flint will double down on HSBC’s ‘pivot’ to Asia and China in particular, despite some setbacks in the plan launched in June 2015.
HSBC said at that time it would hire 4,000 new staff and invest billions to make the Pearl River Delta its gateway to China, a retail and corporate banking push that bet on a tech boom, infrastructure spending and a growing middle class.
But the presentation to investors on Monday showed the bank’s mainland China retail banking unit made a loss of $44 million in 2017.
Chinese regulations that stipulate customers must visit a branch to open an account have slowed HSBC’s technology-based push, analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods said, since the lender only has 227 outlets in China versus local banks that have thousands each.
The presentation gives the clearest indication yet that HSBC’s new management team will intensify its focus on China, betting on the country’s economic growth to bolster profits that have sagged in recent years amid low global interest rates, restructuring costs and ever-tighter regulation.
Tucker said investors would get a fuller picture of CEO Flint’s new strategy before the bank announces its first-half results in July, analysts at the meeting reported.
Reporting by Lawrence White; Editing by Mark Potter