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Opinion

HSBC’s Gulliver sticks to plan A

Someone whom I’m sure is of similar mind is Stuart Gulliver, chief executive of HSBC. Since ascending to the Tai Pan role, Gulliver has kept a studiously low profile while sticking to plan A. In May 2011, Gulliver announced the results of a strategic review that could have been entitled: "Focus is the price to pay for excellence."

Gulliver stated: "Our strategy is to be the leading international bank, concentrating on commercial and wholesale banking in globally connected markets. We will also focus on wealth management in 18 of the most relevant economies and limit retail banking to those markets where we can achieve profitable scale." Sustainable cost savings of over $2.5 billion were targeted during the next three years in order to reduce the bank’s cost-income ratio to around 50% by 2013.

First-quarter 2012 profit before tax of $4.3 billion, including an accounting loss on the value of the bank’s own debt, was solid and Gulliver seems to be executing well on the plan. Return on equity was some 11% for the first quarter if the accounting charge is excluded. Cost cuts are occurring and the empire is being reshaped: 11 transactions to dispose of or close businesses have been announced since the start of 2012.

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