HSBC Bank (Europe)

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HSBC Bank plc
IndustryFinance and insurance
Founded3 March 1865 in Birmingham, Great Britain
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom (Global)
Birmingham, United Kingdom (UK)
Key people
Stephen O’Connor
James Emmett
(Chief Executive)
ProductsFinancial services
Number of employees
85,000 (including its subsidiaries)
ParentHSBC Holdings

HSBC Bank plc is a British multinational banking and financial services organisation. HSBC's international network comprises around 7,500 offices in over 80 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa.

HSBC Bank plc is one of the four major clearing banks in the United Kingdom and is a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings. The business ranges from the traditional high street roles of personal finance and commercial banking, to private banking, consumer finance as well as corporate and investment banking. Across all brands the bank operates some 1800 sites in the UK.

The UK headquarters of HSBC is located at One Centenary Square in Birmingham. The global headquarters are at HSBC Tower, 8 Canada Square in the Canary Wharf area of east London. The building houses some 8,000 staff over 42 floors.

HSBC Bank plc is the only one of Britain's big five banks to hold more deposits than loans (loan:deposit ratio of 90%).[1] This has led to the bank being seen as a less risky proposition than the other banks by investors and customers, as it is able to fully fund its own operations.This also contributed to the company's share price maintaining value throughout the credit crunch, unlike other banks in the market.

Acquisition of Midland Bank[edit]

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation acquired a 14.9 per cent equity interest in Midland Bank plc in 1987, and a strong working relationship developed. In 1992, HSBC Holdings plc acquired full ownership of Midland Bank. It was one of the largest acquisitions in banking history, giving HSBC the major foothold in Europe that it needed to complement its existing business in Asia and the Americas. Midland Bank was renamed HSBC Bank in 1999 as part of the adoption of the HSBC brand throughout the Group.

UK banking[edit]

8 Canada Square HSBC's headquarters in London

Through its sister company HSBC UK Bank plc (also a wholly owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings plc), the bank maintains a network of 594 branches throughout England and Wales,[2] with a much smaller presence in Scotland and Northern Ireland where local banks tend to dominate. In recent years, branches have undergone a programme of rolling refurbishment, with a focus on open-plan areas, increased self-service 'Express Banking' machines, ATMs, and an improved layout.[3] Branches also feature HSBC Live, a radio station specifically produced for the bank by media company Immedia in Newbury, Berkshire.[4]

In mid-2003, HSBC became the first UK high-street lender to offer homebuying products in compliance with Sharia (Islamic) law, which prohibits the charging or payment of interest. The range now includes a bank account, home insurance policy (takaful), and home finance.

In April 2008, HSBC launched a campaign selling mortgages. This was seen as a risky move by media and HSBC staff due to their previous non-plus attitude building on their 3% market share of the mortgage market. While other banks and building societies felt the effects of the 'credit crunch', HSBC, bolstered by a favourable savings to lending ratio, unveiled a mortgage rate matching deal that would offer non-HSBC mortgage customers the ability to match their current mortgage rate.

In 2009, the bank closed its outlets in Morrisons supermarkets which had traded under the Your bank at Morrisons brand following the end of an agreement between both businesses. The outlets offered a range of financial services, including an exclusive credit card and savings account.

In March 2015, the bank announced its intention to move its UK retail banking headquarters from London to Birmingham (One Centenary Square) in 2018 as part of the programme of ring-fencing overseen by the Prudential Regulation Authority.[5][6] The programme saw the bank segregate 250 IT systems, change sort code details for approximately 400,000 accounts, and transfer almost 14.5m customers to the new UK arm.[7] The bank also announced it would brand the new arm, including all of its branches, as HSBC UK. It had previously been speculated that HSBC might revive the Midland Bank name or use the first direct brand for its branch network.[8]

As part of setting up the new bank, a new board and legal structure was created. In November 2016, Clara Furse was named as the first Chairwoman of HSBC UK.[9]

Other UK operations[edit]

A branch of HSBC in Newbury

first direct[edit]

In 1989, the Midland Bank launched First Direct, the pioneer of telephone banking, with a person-to-person service available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It continues to operate as a division of HSBC UK. It now offers internet banking as well and serves more than one million customers. By 2004, First Direct had established a position as the United Kingdom's most recommended bank.[10] As of 2020, results of surveys commissioned by the Competition and Markets Authority showed it continued to be the most recommended UK bank.[11][12]

HFC Bank[edit]

Household International established HFC Bank as consumer finance business in the UK in 1973, it became one of the largest consumer finance companies in the UK before Household was acquired by HSBC in 2003. HFC Bank provides retail credit to many leading national retailers and is the largest point of sale loan provider in the UK. The business focuses on retail finance through branches and direct channels, and co-branded and loyalty credit cards. Some of the key brands are the recently relaunched Beneficial Finance (with around 160 branches) and marbles. HFC Bank has around 3.5 million customers.

Other brands[edit]

As a result of the Household acquisition, the UK group gained expertise allowing it to enter joint ventures and contracts with more high street names, such as taking over Marks and Spencer's financial division, now M&S Bank, on a partnership basis in 2004 and the John Lewis Partnership Card contract.

European operations[edit]

Through various acquisition deals, including some inside the HSBC Group for reorganisational purposes, HSBC Bank plc has become the regional headquarters for Europe. This means the lines of authority from across Europe for such entities as HSBC France, HSBC Trinkaus, HSBC Bank Malta plc, HSBC Turkey, HSBC Bank International and HSBC Private Bank in Europe lead to HSBC Bank plc.


The bank was established as a closed joint stock company under the name Midland Armenia Bank J.S.C. on 1996 and has been renamed into HSBC Bank Armenia cjsc on 1999. The bank is a joint venture between the HSBC Group, which has a 70% ownership, and members of overseas Armenian businesses with 30% ownership. It is one of the leading banks in the foreign exchange market. HSBC Bank Armenia cjsc offers a wide range of products and services to individual as well as corporate customers in Armenia and abroad. The bank is the member of SWIFT and Bankmail payment systems.

Czech Republic[edit]

HSBC Bank plc is undertaking a significant expansion in Eastern and Central Europe, with the Czech Republic the first country to offer Personal Financial Services. The operations are focused on HSBC Premier.


HSBC France has operated around 800 branches in France since the takeover of Credit Commercial de France, primarily operating under the HSBC brand. HSBC France is now the HSBC Group's lead bank in the Eurozone, focusing on certain capital market products for a global audience, and high-net-worth and international business in France.


HSBC Bank Georgia opened its doors for business in Tbilisi in June 2008. HSBC Bank Georgia jsc is a locally licensed joint venture between the HSBC Group, which has 70% ownership, and members of overseas businesses who hold 30%.


HSBC Trinkaus & Burkhardt AG was founded in 1785 and is one of the longest-established members of the HSBC Group. It has operations in private, commercial and investment banking and asset management.


HSBC Greece was established in 1981, and is one of the largest foreign banks in Greece.[13] As of 2019, it has 15 branches in Greece, mainly within Athens.[14]


HSBC Bank plc and a number of subsidiaries have operations in insurance, reinsurance, securities services and a newly established consumer finance business. The fund management business had assets in excess of US$20bn as of 2006.[15]


HSBC Bank Malta plc is the largest bank in Malta. It is a listed company but its majority shareholder is the HSBC Group. Formerly the "Mid-Med Bank", HSBC Bank Malta is the second-longest established bank in Malta.


HSBC Private Bank is the Swiss operating subsidiaries of the group's Private Banking business, with 20 locations in the country. Much of the private banking business takes a lead from work done in Switzerland, with a total of 74 locations around the world operating solely for private banking business.


HSBC Bank A.S. is now the fifth largest private bank in Turkey, having expanded through internal financing and via acquisition since entering the market in 1990. The bank has a network of around 336 branches, offering products and services to corporate, commercial and personal customers, both under the HSBC brand as well as the Advantage brand.


Withdrawal of graduate overdrafts[edit]

In July 2007, HSBC suddenly withdrew its interest-free overdrafts for graduates. Students graduating that year discovered that they were to face unexpected bills of up to £140 a year.[16] Students mobilised protests using the social networking website Facebook and in August, HSBC reversed their policy,[17] freezing overdraft charges to recent graduates and pledging to repay charges deducted in August while holding talks with the National Union of Students.

Data loss[edit]

In April 2008, HSBC confirmed the loss of unencrypted data disks containing life insurance policy details for 370,000 customers.[18] In February 2011 HSBC sent a letter dated 11 February to an unknown number of recipients, stating that they were "writing to inform you of the potential compromise of some of your former account information with us." The date and extent of the loss were not given; however, HSBC offered a year's enrolment to ITAC Sentinel and advised vigilance for 12 to 24 months, as well as recommending contacting the three major credit bureaus to place a fraud alert on the credit profile.

Cultural insensitivity[edit]

In 2008, HSBC were accused of 'cultural insensitivity' in an advertising campaign featuring an overweight white man dressed to look like a Sumo wrestler. The campaign upset members of Britain's Japanese community who claimed the man's skin tone was darkened and makeup was applied to narrow his eyes.[19] HSBC denied making the model appear to be from a specific country or region but admitted makeup was applied and skin tone was tanned.[20]

Links to arms dealership[edit]

In December 2008, the British anti-poverty charity War on Want released a report documenting the extent to which HSBC and other UK commercial banks invest in, provide banking services for and make loans to arms companies. The charity writes in its report that HSBC holds shares in the global arms industry totalling £450.6 million, and serves as principal banker for Meggitt, one of the UK's largest arms companies. The report also details HSBC's dealings with known producers of cluster munitions and depleted uranium munitions.[21]

Money laundering for drug cartels[edit]

In 2012, the U.S. government uncovered a "blatant failure to implement proper anti-money laundering controls facilitating the laundering of at least $881 million in drug proceeds through the U.S. financial system".[22] The bank also violated US sanctions by conducting business in countries on US blacklists, including Iran, Libya, and Cuba.[23]

The bank paid a $1.9 billion fine and entered into a 5-year Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the US Department of Justice. A US Congressional report revealed that the UK government had intervened in the investigation to warn against prosecution, advising that it would have "very serious implications for financial and economic stability", and that the US Attorney General decided not to prosecute the bank as a result of its "systemic importance" to the global financial system.[23]

Closure of Islamic accounts[edit]

In 2014, HSBC closed North London Central Mosque's account and some Muslim clients' and groups' accounts.[24][25][26][27][28][29] Several sources reported that HSBC closed them because they donated their money to Palestine during the recent conflict.[30][31][32] The bank claimed that continuing to provide bank accounts would be outside of their "risk appetite" and said the decisions were "absolutely not based on race or religion" but declined to comment on individual cases.[33]

Mass Job Cuts[edit]

In February 2020, HSBC announced their plan to lay off more than 35,000 jobs worldwide as their profits for 2019 dwindled by a staggering 33%.[34] The company’s interim chief executive, Noel Quinn, announced that the company was planning to scale back its headcount from 235,000 to around 200,000 by 2023. This 35,000 job losses represented about 15% of the company’s workforce.

Relationship with China[edit]

In June 2020, HSBC ended a year-long policy of refusing to comment on the protests in Hong Kong. Protests had been ongoing over the increasing control that China had been attempting to assert over Hong Kong, through the imposition of new national security laws. In a statement, HSBC said that it "respects and supports all laws that stabilise Hong Kong's social order’".[35] The move was widely seen as backing China in the dispute, and was criticized by the United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, calling the bank's policy a "corporate kowtow". The move was also commented on by United Kingdom Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, saying that HSBC may be more closely "aligned with the Chinese government than Her Majesty’s Government”.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Running to HSBC Makes Shares European Bank Winner". Bloomberg L.P. 6 October 2008.
  2. ^ Hiscott, Graham (5 July 2013). "Number of bank branches at lowest level for over 60 years". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Fit Out You Can Bank on For HSBC". Overbury. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  4. ^ "Want to know who's to blame for all those shop radio stations? Try". The Independent. 6 January 2012. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  5. ^ "HSBC headquarters to relocate from London to Birmingham". BBC News. 24 March 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  6. ^ Garside, Juliette (24 March 2015). "HSBC to base ringfenced retail banking operation in Birmingham". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  7. ^ "HSBC completes ring fencing" (PDF). HSBC. 02/07/2018. Retrieved 2019-12-29. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Wolfe, Hazel (4 September 2015). "The brand Midland Bank won't return, as HSBC will be called HSBC UK". Economic News Daily. Archived from the original on 15 September 2015. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  9. ^ Goodley, Simon (1 November 2016). "Clara Furse to chair HSBC's retail arm". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 November 2016.
  10. ^ First Response Survey. December 2004. Research undertaken agency among 1,577 current account holders across the UK, between 30 November 2004 and 8 December 2004
  11. ^ "Personal banking service quality – Great Britain". Ipsos MORI. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  12. ^ "Where to go if you want to switch from HSBC". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 21 June 2020.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ "HSBC Ireland".[dead link]
  16. ^ Collinson, Patrick; Levene, Tony (25 August 2007). "Now it's Facebook vs HSBC". The Guardian. London.
  17. ^ MacLeod, Donald (30 August 2007). "Students celebrate Facebook triumph over HSBC". The Guardian. London.
  18. ^ Bowers, Simon (8 April 2008). "HSBC loses disk with policy details of 370,000 customers". The Guardian. London.
  19. ^ Day, Elizabeth (24 August 2008). "Bank loses face over Brian the sumo fake". The Guardian. London.
  20. ^ Salter, Jessica (24 August 2008). "HSBC embroiled in 'slit-eye row' over advert". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  21. ^ "Banking on Bloodshed".
  22. ^ "HSBC Holdings Plc. and HSBC Bank USA N.A. Admit to Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions Violations, Forfeit $1.256 Billion in Deferred Prosecution Agreement" (Press release). U.S. Department of Justice. 11 December 2012.
  23. ^ a b "'Market risk' stopped US action on HSBC". 12 July 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  24. ^ "HSBC closes some Muslim groups' accounts". BBC News. 30 July 2014.
  25. ^ Haroon Siddique. "HSBC shuts accounts of Muslim organisations, including Finsbury Park mosque". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "HSBC closes three Muslim organisations' accounts". BBC News.
  27. ^ "HSBC angers Muslim leaders by closing account of Finsbury Park Mosque". London Evening Standard.
  28. ^ Tadeo, Maria (30 July 2014). "HSBC closes bank accounts belonging to Muslim clients in the UK". The Independent. London.
  29. ^ Barrett, David (30 July 2014). "Muslim bank accounts closed by HSBC in wake of 'money laundering' fine". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  30. ^ "HSBC terminates Gaza-linked Islamic charity's bank account and others". Russia: RT.
  31. ^ Giles Fraser. "HSBC: the bank that likes to say no to Muslim accounts". The Guardian.
  32. ^ gmbwatch. "UK Muslim Brotherhood Leader Says HSBC Closes His Bank Accounts; Claims Closures Part of Action Against Palestinian Activists". The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch.
  33. ^ Laurie, Dominic (30 July 2014). "HSBC closes some Muslims' accounts". Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  34. ^ HSBC signals mass job cuts as profits plunge
  35. ^ "HSBC and StanChart back China security laws for HK". BBC News. 4 June 2020. Retrieved 14 June 2020.

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