The Asia-Pacific region would continue to be a key contributor to the earnings of global banking group HSBC, forecast Peter Wong Tung-shun, who takes over responsibility for running the group's operations in the region on February 1 next year. 'We will see a major increase in wealth in the East in the future,' said Wong, adding the worldwide shift in wealth would help ensure Asia-Pacific contributed not less than 40 per cent of the total group profit for HSBC annually as populous countries such as China and India continued to grow at a rapid pace. In a restructuring announced in September last year, HSBC said that in line with the emergence of Asia-Pacific as the group's 'largest and most important region', it would move the principal office of its group chief executive, Michael Geoghegan, to Hong Kong. Geoghegan would also become the chairman of the group's Asia-Pacific arm, the Hongkong & Shanghai Banking Corp, and Wong would become its chief executive. The group's interim profit statement for this year released in August underlined the importance of the region, which came to its rescue after the dismal performance in North America to account for 90.1 per cent of group pre-tax profit in the first half of the year. In the first half of last year, the contribution was 55.7 per cent, and Wong said he expected the unusually large Asia-Pacific share would remain high in the next two years due to the weakness in the US, but the proportion could be lower once business in the US and Europe got back to strength. Wong said he expected Hong Kong would remain the biggest profit contributor in the region in the next two to three years and would benefit from further financial opening of the mainland. He added he was optimistic about the future of Hong Kong as the city would help the drive by the mainland to become a financial centre in Asia by co-operating with Shanghai. While many international banks had been hard hit by the global financial crisis last year, HSBC had a strong brand presence and was in a position to benefit from opportunities arising from the crisis, he said. The bank suffered earnings declines in the past two years mainly as a result of falling profit contributions from HSBC Finance, its consumer finance unit in the United States. It raised capital through a rights issue earlier this year, but it was one of the few lenders that did not need a government bailout during the turmoil. However, Wong said the bank's brand strength improved after the turmoil and it saw customers migrate to it from other lenders. HSBC was ranked the world's 30th most valuable brand in 2009 compared with 35th last year, and is the top international banking brand compared with fourth last year, according to BrandZ, in a study of consumers and business-to-business brand preferences conducted by research firm Millward Brown. It was the third-largest lender in terms of market capitalisation after Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and China Construction Bank as of December 1. It was ranked third by market capitalisation after ICBC and JP Morgan Chase as of October 27 last year, according to Thomson Reuters. Billy Mak Siu-choi, an associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, said HSBC had an advantage in certain markets in the region, such as the mainland, as it had entered that market a long time ago and had since become one of the largest foreign banks there. And, by not requiring government aid, that made it more flexible in making business decisions compared with those rescued by governments.