Veteran banker targets US$4b gain in medium term

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 July, 2011, 12:00am


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Veteran banker Simon Williams, who started as HSBC Holdings' head of wealth management yesterday, plans to expand into 18 markets to earn US$4 billion in additional revenue over the medium term.

Under a strategic blueprint unveiled by chief executive Stuart Gulliver in May, HSBC, which is considering exiting some of its 39 loss-making retail banking markets, will expand its retail wealth management business to increase the group's profitability.

Williams will spearhead that expansion, which covers emerging markets such as India and China and developed markets of the United States and Europe.

Williams was formerly a senior executive at Citigroup, where he helped develop the US lender's consumer banking and retail wealth management business from 1997 to 2006, especially in Asia and Latin America.

In 2007, he founded his own investment firm, Camelot Financial Capital Management, which he expanded from two people to more than 100.

illiams said Camelot, the legendary court of Britain's King Arthur, represented his vision for achieving his goals. He wants to adopt the same approach to his new job at HSBC, which he calls his new Camelot.

'With hard work and determination, we could move mountains,' he said. 'We could achieve something it seems is impossible to achieve. We just need to recruit a team of the right experts to do the job.'

His experience at Camelot taught him how to use limited resources to achieve a major business goal, a skill that could prove useful at HSBC, which is embarking on an aggressive cost-cutting exercise.

The plan is to reduce expenses by US$2.5 billion to US$3.5 billion over the next two years in a bid to boost profitability and raise its share price. Loss-making branches and business lines will also be closed.

The bank has said that of its operations in 61 retail banking markets, only 15 are making money. The two biggest contributors to profits are Hong Kong and Britain. The bank has identified seven markets, including the mainland and India, where its retail banking business is losing money, but it says it will continue to develop its presence there because they have high growth potential.

Williams said he decided to join the bank because he considered it the 'right place and the right organisation' for him to develop the next phase of his career. 'I will roll my sleeves up to do my job,' he said.

He also said the cost-cutting drive would not affect the development of the bank's wealth management business.

'HSBC has a strong brand name and a worldwide distribution and branch network,' he said. 'It has strong investment and insurance businesses. This is ideal to develop the wealth management products to serve customers in both developed and emerging markets.'