The newly appointed chief executive of HSBC has promised that the bank will return to “growth mode”, following a decade of depressed revenues. John Flint, a 28-year old company veteran promoted in February, reassured investors that $15bn to $17bn will be invested in “growth and technology” in the next phase of his eight-point strategy.
The plan includes maintaining dividends at current levels, and launching share buybacks in order for the bank to deliver a return on tangible equity greater than 11% by 2020. According to Flint, “the existing strategy is working and provides a strong platform for future profitable growth”, but the next strategic phase exemplifies HSBC’s desperate need to innovate.
A new report from SAP SE indicates that essentially all business leaders believe that next-generation technology will be integral to their business growth over the next five years, and it looks like Flint is also aware of this digital shift. The HSBC chief stated “the reality is technology is transforming our industry in quite unusual and rapid ways. We have to be alert to that.”
The next phase of the strategy intends to accelerate growth in the bank’s existing areas of strength, and Flint announced that HSBC will “build a leading wealth management business to capture the growing wealth of Asia.” This echoes the strategy of Stuart Gulliver, Flint’s predecessor, who also focused on a “pivot to Asia”, but the new plan refocuses the bank’s agenda on China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
Digital transformation is now integral to rapid business growth, and HSBC is one of the largest banks to step up and invest big in technology in an effort to stay ahead. Following the news, investors appeared somewhat underwhelmed, however, and the bank’s shares were down by almost 1% in morning trading.