HSBC gearing up for S'pore incorporation

The HSBC branch at Plaza Singapura, which features a digital hub where customers can access e-banking platforms and online content.
The HSBC branch at Plaza Singapura, which features a digital hub where customers can access e-banking platforms and online content.PHOTO: HSBC

HSBC Singapore is gearing up to be incorporated here as it moves to establish a larger presence in Singapore and the region.

Incorporation, which should be completed by June 30, is a sign in itself of the bank's growth.

Foreign banks with a large share of deposits here have to become a local subsidiary that handles retail operations, as a show of commitment to the Republic. They are required to put capital of at least $1.5 billion in Singapore and may be allowed to open more outlets and ATMs.

Mr Matthew Colebrook, HSBC's head of retail banking and wealth management for Singapore, said HSBC Singapore is in the final stages of becoming a local unit.

It has certainly been ramping up its presence here with a string of significant investments in recent years.

This includes opening new branches and revamping existing ones, such as the newly located Plaza Singapore outlet and an upgraded Jurong one that reopened this week. They feature digital hubs where customers can access e-banking platforms and online content.

HSBC Singapore has plans to grow its retail presence where possible and one way is through expanding its physical branch network according to its clients' needs. For instance, the bank's Liat Tower and Bukit Timah branches opened in July and December 2014, respectively, on the back of feedback from the bank's customers living in that area. Since December 2013, six other branches have also been revamped.

"The decision to invest in our branch network is a tangible signal to our clients and future clients, of our intent to be in Singapore in future," said Mr Colebrook.

He added that the group's retail banking and wealth management business includes the onshore and offshore areas.

In the offshore space, the bank has three global booking hubs.

HSBC Singapore's Claymore Hill site houses one such hub - called the Premier International Centre - covering countries such as China and Indonesia.

The group also changed how it sold its products three years ago, which has allowed it to focus more closely on its clients. Mr Colebrook added that this is in line with new measures by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), such as the balanced scorecard framework, which refers to including factors such as customer feedback when rewarding financial advisers.

"We removed all product-incentive payments from the wealth and investment portfolio," he said.

"Two years ago, we did the same with the retail side. That changed the whole dynamics or the way we looked at financial services, to look at it as a solution to an identified customer need. "It's also changed the way we look at our business, the way talent is recruited, and our people are excited about that move to identify the right customer need, rather than a product push that is fairly typical of the industry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 21, 2016, with the headline 'HSBC gearing up for S'pore incorporation'. Print Edition | Subscribe