HSBC is in a fix and there is no obvious way out

Simon English
·2-min read
Getty Images
Getty Images

HSBC is in a fix, and the way out is far from obvious.

The giant bank’s great size is supposed to operate as a hedge. When things are bad in the US, they will probably be stronger in Asia.

If Europe is on the rocks, well South America will be better.

What that global presence means at the moment is that it is exposed to crises everywhere.

Throw in simmering tension between the US and China over Hong Kong, its most important market. And chuck a bit of Brexit on top.

And what you have is an unwieldy mess.

From the outside, HSBC has always looked too big to manage. A politburo of sluggishness which meant opportunities would be missed and impending disasters overlooked.

Internally, many staff would recognise that description and shrug. What can you do?

In many cases, they seemed to be trading job satisfaction for job security.

Thousands of them will now lose those jobs so even that security was an illusion.

The top two at the bank, chief executive Noel Quinn and finance director Ewen Stevenson, are a formidable pair.

They talk plainly and won’t be afraid of taking action, however drastic, to set the bank in the right direction.

As they, and chairman Mark Tucker would have to admit, so many of the issues facing the bank are global and beyond their control.

They can take as much local action as they like and the bigger picture will still be painted by others.

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