Thank you, Chair, and hello everyone. I am joined today by Jessica Power who heads our Retail Bank.
As this is our first time in many years in front of the House Standing Committee on Economics, I will start with an outline of the size and shape of HSBC in Australia, to better context my answers to the Committees’ questions. I will then cover our evolution in the context of the Royal Commission, some of our key actions during the pandemic, and our views on the Australian economy going forward.
HSBC IN AUSTRALIA
HSBC is an international bank headquartered in the United Kingdom, serving more than 40 million customers and employing around 226,000 people across the globe.
HSBC has been in Australia since 1965. We provide institutional and wholesale banking services across global and commercial banking customer segments, including a significant markets, custody and sustainable finance business. We offer premier retail banking services online, over the phone and through our 40 branches. We’re headquartered in Sydney and employ approximately eighteen hundred people around the country. In terms of our business mix, approximately two thirds of our business is wholesale and one third is retail.
Our ambition during our over half-a-century in Australia has been to be our customers preferred international partner. Allow me to provide more colour as to what we mean by that.
Our purpose is to support Australia’s best corporations in their global ambitions and assist the flow of capital and investment into Australia – essentially, connecting Australian companies to international opportunities and vice versa. As such, we tend to focus on the larger end of the wholesale and institutional market. There are therefore, segments which we do not pursue; we do not target SME customers and we have no small business banking offering.
Our retail offering is similarly concentrated at the more affluent end of the market in major cities and is deeply internationalist; a key part of what we do is assisting generations of new Australians as they establish their lives here; from international students, to the employees of multinationals doing their stint here, through to those making Australia their permanent home. And clearly we help internationally minded Australians in their overseas journeys.
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO MISCONDUCT IN THE BANKING, SUPERANNUATION AND FINANCIAL SERVICES INDUSTRY
I would like to cover how the outcomes of the Royal Commission have impacted the evolution of HSBC’s conduct, controls and culture in Australia. Firstly, some parts of the Royal Commission covered financial services which we do not offer to retail customers here – notably the advised wealth business and superannuation.
Many components of the Royal Commission – such as culture and Incentives, to take an example – were indeed relevant to our business and we have performed a detailed review of Commission outcomes and implemented specific changes that were required. The context for us, and the reason why the Royal Commission outcomes were more easily digested, is as follows: as part of a global bank with many lessons-leaned from the prior decade, including the GFC, many of the areas covered by the Commission had been subject to significant internal programmes of action during the preceding years. In summary, whilst we never claim perfection, the recommendations of the Royal Commission reinforced work we had done and assisted the direction of travel already underway.
Bringing the conversation to Covid-19, I’m proud of the resilience of our operations, our people and customers in Australia. We remained fully operational throughout the pandemic given our solid contingency planning, and continue to remain operational during the most recent lockdowns. And I would like to take this occasion to publicly thank all our staff in Australia for their outstanding work.
Like our peers, we played our part throughout the pandemic. We supported our wholesale customers by facilitating cash-flow and debt capital access; and we managed an orderly deferral process for retail customers.
Owing to the premier – or affluent – nature of our retail portfolio, our total housing loans subject to deferral arrangements peaked at 6.5 per cent in August 2020 – below the industry average of 9 per cent. Because of the nature of our retail business we have been able to directly contact the vast majority of those customers through that period – around 97 per cent of them – to ensure our response was appropriately calibrated. Pleasingly, 99 per cent have moved off the deferral programme.
Australia has managed the Covid-19 medical crisis and the subsequent regulatory and economic response in a way that minimised economic damage and promoted a rapid rebound. It has been a strong performance and we remain upbeat on Australia’s overall economic trajectory.
Following a strong first half, our year-end 2021 GDP growth forecast is 5.1 per cent – that forecast doesn’t yet take into account the current lockdown. Now clearly beating the current outbreak is the priority; however, echoing the views of our Chief Economist for Australia and New Zealand, Paul Bloxham, we see the development of a clear pathway to international border reopening as critical to cementing our longer-term positive view.
We are proud of our long history in Australia. We’re pleased to be playing our part during the pandemic and recovery and we look forward to contributing to Australia’s economic prosperity.
Jess and I welcome your questions.