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HSBC's local heroes take a global view

HSBC's retail and corporate bank marketing has stressed its prowess as the world's local bank. However, the quest for a much enhanced global investment banking business demands a break from group tradition, one that redeployed and enhanced top management seems intent on implementing.

CHANGE IS IN the air at HSBC's shiny new group head office in Canary Wharf. The Norman Foster designed building is itself a departure from the norm. It might be a conservative HSBC-grey colour inside and out, but it is sufficiently capacious to allow staff from the bank's many different divisions in London to be centralized in one location for the first time. It's also where HSBC is orchestrating a new push into global investment banking.

It's not the first time that this venerable global corporate and retail banking group has tried to address its long-standing weakness in this area but this latest effort seems more determined and better planned. Stephen Green, the ex-investment banking head, is now chief executive of the group, a strategic plan is in place to integrate the corporate and investment bank and Stuart Gulliver and John Studzinski, the two co-heads Green has appointed to take over from him, have the ability to make things happen - and fast.

It is a significant departure from HSBC's two-centuries-old organizational principles of regionalism and cautious conservatism, frugality and steady organic growth. But whether it can be radical enough to create a successful investment bank while still adhering to these wider group principles is yet to be tested.

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