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Opinion

HSBC and Citi: A game of two banks

Much out-of-hours competition between investment banks in Hong Kong comes in the drinking dens of Lan Kwai Fung and Wanchai.

But HSBC and Citi took to battle on the playing fields of the Hong Kong Football Club in April for a fixture they hope will one day rival in intensity HSBC’s annual golf challenge against the old Jardine Fleming.

The match was played without a referee, suggesting that despite politicians’ rhetoric banks can actually compete and at the same time work together to achieve effective regulation.

The game started off as a cagey affair, with HSBC securing a narrow 1-0 lead by half time. A stirring half-time team talk by skipper Phil Lipton had HSBC out peppering the Citi goal in the second period like originators on the hunt for an Asian high-yield mandate. HSBC took a 5-1 lead midway through the half.

HSBC started to tire at that point, as a strong substitutes bench used by Citi captain David Russell started to take over the game. They pulled it back to 5-3 by the final whistle, with Citi’s co-CEO for Asia, Stephen Bird, telling Euromoney that "another 10 minutes and we would have had them. They were on their last legs."

Both sides say the game was played in a tremendous spirit, which was demonstrated when Citi revealed a surprise trophy that was duly presented to HSBC, with the promise of a chance to win it back soon.

That match might have added spice given Citi’s determination to take on HSBC and build market share in the Hong Kong retail banking sector. Citi’s opening shot is to keep its branches open till 7pm, rather than the 5pm close the majority of HSBC customers face.

A case of looking to win in extra time, perhaps?

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