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Hong Kong harbour, Chinese artist, early 1860s
Staff in Fuzhou, China, 1887
Portrait of Thomas Jackson, around 1890
Chinese railway bond certificate, 1907
Staff in military uniform, First World War
Hong Kong building, 1965
Prison camp diary of HSBC staff member Max Haymes, 1943
Hong Kong garment factory, around 1950
Persian banknote, early 20th century
UK cash machine, around 1970
HSBC office, New York, 1999
HSBC lion, London, present day
The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited opened in Hong Kong on 3 March 1865 and in Shanghai one month later. It was the first locally owned bank to operate according to Scottish banking principles.
By 1875 HSBC was present in seven countries across Asia, Europe and North America. It financed the export of tea and silk from China, cotton and jute from India, sugar from the Philippines and rice and silk from Vietnam.
By 1900, after strong growth under Chief Manager Thomas Jackson, the bank had expanded into 16 countries and was financing trade across the world. Bullion, exchange and merchant banking were important features of the bank’s business.
In the early 20th century, HSBC widened the scope of its activities in Asia. It issued loans to national governments to finance modernisation and infrastructure projects such as railway building.
The First World War brought disruption and dislocation to many businesses. By the 1920s, however, Asia was beginning to prosper again as new industries developed and trade in commodities such as rubber and tin soared.
The 1930s brought recession and turmoil to many markets. Nonetheless, HSBC asked architects Palmer and Turner to design a new head office in Hong Kong: “Please build us the best bank in the world.” The cutting-edge art deco building opened in 1935.
The bank faced one of its most challenging times during the Second World War. Staff in Asia showed huge courage in the face of adversity. Many became prisoners of war. Only the London, Indian and US branches remained in full operation.
At the end of the war, HSBC took on a key role in the reconstruction of the Hong Kong economy. Its support helped established manufacturers as well as newcomers to Hong Kong grow their business.
By the 1970s the bank had expanded through acquisition. HSBC bought Mercantile Bank and The British Bank of the Middle East in 1959. In 1972 it formed a merchant banking arm, extending its range of services.
In the 1980s HSBC bought Marine Midland Bank in the US. In 1992, the newly created HSBC Holdings plc made a recommended offer for full ownership of the UK’s Midland Bank. Following the acquisition, HSBC moved its headquarters to London.
In 1998, the bank announced it would adopt a unified brand, using HSBC and the hexagon symbol everywhere it operated.
Our purpose – Opening up a world of opportunity – explains why we exist. We’re here to use our unique expertise, capabilities, breadth and perspectives, opening up a world of opportunity for our customers.
We want to ensure everyone at HSBC has fair and equal access to opportunities, says Elaine Arden.
There is a growing need to strengthen Hong Kong’s role as a ‘super-connector’, says David Liao.