The last time a HSBC Holdings chief executive was based in Hong Kong the Union Jack still fluttered proudly over Government House. Michael Geoghegan, the first head of the global bank to live in Hong Kong since its headquarters shifted to London in 1993, arrived back in the city like a prodigal son yesterday but seemed well aware of who was now in charge. 'I want to have a cup of Chinese tea not take the English, which was yesterday,' Geoghegan quipped on arriving for his first day of work in Hong Kong. HSBC was founded in the city 144 years ago and the return of its top boss has been taken as a sign the bank sees its future in China, now the world's third-biggest economy. Geoghegan is the first global chief of the bank to be based here since William Purves moved to London in 1993. 'I'm a new man in town and I enjoyed very much my first day in Hong Kong,' Geoghegan told the South China Morning Post by telephone. Geoghegan certainly received a movie star welcome when he arrived at HSBC headquarters in Central at 9am sharp. Wearing a HSBC tie, the banker was greeted by several hundred bank staff and more than 100 reporters. His first job in the city: to pose in front of the iconic bronze lions for a photo opportunity. 'It is just like returning home,' Geoghegan said. 'It was the same 27 years ago when I first arrived in Hong Kong. It was February 9, the same date my son was born,' he said. Geoghegan's move symbolises a return to HSBC's roots, which was founded in Hong Kong in 1865. It also partially reverses the pre-handover relocation of the group's headquarters to Britain. Group chairman Stephen Green will remain at the bank's Docklands headquarters in London. The renewed focus on the region marks a strategic about-turn for HSBC after it made huge provisions for its business in the United States. The bank in 2003 spent US$16 billion to acquire US subprime lender Household International. The purchase proved disastrous. Since the US housing bubble burst, HSBC has been forced to set aside US$32 billion against losses on its US portfolio, and in April last year went cap in hand to shareholders to raise US$17.7 billion of new capital in a rights issue. 'With hindsight, it's an investment we wish we hadn't made,' Geoghegan said. 'The relocation is a symbolic move that shows the commitment and the focus of the bank is on Asia and China,' he said. The pressure started almost immediately for the HSBC veteran, when he was asked whether he plans to follow Chinese tradition by giving laisee to his more than 10,000 staff in the Lunar New Year. 'I need to think carefully about that. I may not easily answer this question as I may become a poor guy,' he said. The banker will eventually move into Tai Pan House, the house at Middle Gap Road occupied by Vincent Cheng Hoi-chuen, the chairman of Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Until then, he will live in a hotel until renovations are completed. On business, he said he would focus on the new Basel capital requirements as well as how to ensure his bank would help small and medium enterprise trying to cope with the crisis. He hoped HSBC could list in Shanghai later this year but no details could be confirmed. Geoghegan, 56, joined HSBC in 1973. He has spent 12 years in North and South America, eight years in Asia, seven years in the Middle East and three years in Europe. He is married with two sons.