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Banking

An IO with a view

The culture that powers HongkongBank

What is HSBC?


Sir William Purves's view over the Thames is one of the finest in London. "I don't have time to look at it," says Purves gruffly, getting in a quick spot of work at his desk while he waits for the head of public affairs to arrive. In a room awash with naval landscapes, his thick Scots accent ­ which friends and colleagues invariably try to imitate ­ rings out: "If your question is, when do our short lines of communications cease to work, I'll tell you. The short line breaks when the chief executive or group chairman shuts his door. My door is always open ­ all day ­ unless there is a meeting, and any executive can come and pop his head through the door and say by the way... You don't find that in every organization."

Purves, better known as Willie, joined the bank in 1954. "I can tell you exactly how many international staff there were ­ 255. I was number 255. In those days we published a blue book listing staff by seniority when they joined the bank.


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