Iconic Taipan House eludes executives succeeding Peter Wong at HSBC

·4-min read

The two officials who have succeeded Peter Wong Tung-shun as HSBC’s Asia-Pacific chief executive (CEO) will be based in Hong Kong, but neither will occupy the so-called Taipan House on The Peak, Noel Quinn said on Monday.

Quinn, the bank’s group CEO, said Wong would continue to occupy the property, a colonial era home located on Middle Gap Road that overlooks Aberdeen and the south side of Hong Kong Island.

The bank, the biggest lender in Hong Kong and Europe, on Monday confirmed a report by the Post that Wong would retire as Asia-Pacific CEO and become a non-executive chairman with immediate effect. His job is now being split between David Liao, HSBC’s former head of global banking in Asia-Pacific, and Surendra Rosha, the former CEO of HSBC India.

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Taipan House was bought by HSBC in 1983 as a home for its senior executives and chairmen, who are referred to as taipans, or “big boss” in Mandarin and Cantonese. The property has been home to former chairmen such as William Purves, John Gray, John Strickland, David Eldon and Vincent Cheng. It was passed out to Wong in 2011. “Peter will stay in the house,” Quinn said on Monday.

The 156-year-old bank was founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai, but shifted its headquarters to London in 1993 following the acquisition of Midland Bank. Its recent moves, however, show it is shifting its focus back to Asia.

David Liao, HSBC’s former head of global banking in Asia-Pacific. Photo: Bloomberg
David Liao, HSBC’s former head of global banking in Asia-Pacific. Photo: Bloomberg

In February, Quinn unveiled a plan to invest US$6 billion in Asia, to capture the strong growth in this region. The plan included the hiring of 5,000 wealth planners. Last month, HSBC announced that it would sell the bulk of its US retail banking branches and instead focus on wealthy clients and international businesses in America. The lender, which generates more than half of its revenue and the bulk of its profit in Asia, is shifting capital from underperforming businesses in Europe and the US.

“HSBC has significant growth plans in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Southeast Asia and India. It makes sense to have two people to co-head and to drive our future growth,” Quinn said. Liao knew Hong Kong and China well, while Rosha understood India and Southeast Asia, he added.

“They are both talented and experienced bankers, with over 25 years of experience in banking. Added together, they have a range of experience. They are humble individuals and team-oriented people … both have a track record of delivering growth,” Quinn said.

Surendra Rosha, the former CEO of HSBC India. Photo: Facebook
Surendra Rosha, the former CEO of HSBC India. Photo: Facebook

The main priority for Liao and Rosha is implementing growth in HSBC’s investment banking, commercial banking and wealth management businesses. Quinn said the two co-heads have known each other for many years and believed that they would work as a team.

Age was not behind Wong’s retirement, Quinn said. “There is no retirement age at HSBC, so there is no magic number. It was a personal decision,” he said. Wong turns 70 in November.

Wong, who spent 16 years at HSBC, including 11 as Asia-Pacific CEO, said in an email sent to staff on Monday that focus on the needs of customers and teamwork would be key to success.

“Asia-Pacific is at the heart of both HSBC’s past and its future. We have committed US$6 billion to growing HSBC in Asia, and with three of the business heads shortly moving to the region we are getting the money, resources and focus we need to make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead of us,” he said.

“The new leadership gives us the right strategic focus on the geographies where we want to grow and diversify our business over the long term. You are in good hands, and I’m sure you will hear more from both of them in the near future,” Wong said.

HSBC’s Asia-Pacific region has contributed US$62 billion in dividends to HSBC Group during the 11 years that Wong was CEO. Asia’s share of the group revenue also increased, rising from 27 per cent in 2010 to 53 per cent in 2020.

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