HSBC sharpens focus on Islamic banking
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) in Bangladesh is now pursuing personal banking, with focus on Islamic products, after making a mark in commercial banking.
The bank is the country's largest commercial bank that handled 9 percent of annual external business worth over $35 billion in fiscal 2009-10.
“We want to come up with more Amanah products to increase market share here,” Louisa Cheang, group general manager of HSBC, told The Daily Star in an recent interview.
Amanah is the bank's Islamic banking window. The bank presently has Amanah products for current account and import finance but it has decided to introduce many other products for the Muslim-dominated country.
On a daylong visit to Bangladesh on August 12, Cheang, 46, looked at the bank's plans to expand its activities with internet and Islamic banking.
During her visit, Cheang, a Chinese national, also opened a new branch at Mirpur, Dhaka, to take the tally to 13.
She also serves as the regional director of personal financial services and marketing for HSBC, Asia Pacific region.
HSBC has identified Bangladesh as one of the growing 10 (G 10) countries, along with Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. These countries are known as emerging markets for the bank.
Cheang says Bangladesh has a big population -- 160 million -- and the economy has also been growing steadily. “We see a lot of potential in personal and internet banking here. We have decided to expand our activities in these areas to net more clients."
Currently, HSBC does internet banking for its corporate customers and Islamic banking on a limited scale. The bank will now go for real time internet and Islamic banking for all of its customers.
“The distribution channel will be expanded and more people will be hired to support the expansion plan,” says Cheang. The bank will also invest more money here and set up more branches, she adds.
The banker, who joined HSBC in 1999, also spoke on global recession, the bank's business, Bangladeshi talents and infrastructure constraints.
HSBC made profits before taxes worth $9.6 billion during the first half of 2010, up 30 percent from the same time last year. But the bank made a whooping $5.6 billion in profits in Asia during the first six months of this year -- up 58 percent from a year ago.
Cheang says HSBC's profits did not go down during recession. “We are continuing to net more customers by winning their trust."
Cheang acknowledges the presence of Bangladeshi talent and the country's prospects of further growth. But the banker feels the need for undertaking supportive programmes, involving both the public and private sector, developing and nurturing talent and sorting out the right people for the right position.
On the country's limitations in energy and infrastructure, she says it is not rare in the world, and rather, all countries like Bangladesh face the problems.
Cheang also says HSBC is willing to work with the government in its efforts to address the energy and infrastructure challenges.
In response to a query, the banker says HSBC has neither any plans to commence upon financing for industries nor get listed in the local stock market.