HSBC will invest $15-17 billion in the next three years in areas including technology and China as it swings from a strategy of cost-cutting to growth, new CEO John Flint said, while keeping profitability and dividend targets little changed.
In a first public outline of his strategy at the helm of Europe’s biggest bank by market capitalisation, Flint set out ambitions to grow its return on tangible equity to 11 percent, in line with previous targets, from 6.8 percent in 2017.
The update marks a shift in HSBC’s post-2008 crisis attitude from cost-cutting and restructuring to investment and growth, but analysts said the focus on China and technology were familiar themes.
HSBC shares fell by 0.7 percent amid some disappointment the bank said it would keep its current levels of dividends rather than the increase some investors had hoped for.
“The early read is that this is not a revolutionary strategy review – rather accelerating growth (particularly in Asia) as well as driving better value creation,” analyst Joseph Dickerson at Jefferies International in London said.
BACK INTO GROWTH MODE
The main points of the bank’s refreshed strategy will come as little surprise to HSBC investors, with the focus squarely on further expansion in China and its prosperous southern Pearl River Delta region in particular.
The bank will also seek to expand further in the British mortgage market as one of eight new strategic targets, it said.
“After a period of restructuring, it is now time for HSBC to get back into growth mode,” Flint said.
The bank has found no silver bullet for its underperforming U.S. business, the strategy update showed, with HSBC set to focus on trying to grow its market share among internationally-focused mid-sized companies.
The bank will also resume unsecured lending in its retail bank, taking on the riskier but more profitable segment of the consumer market that drives the higher profits achieved by its domestic rivals in the United States.
Flint in February said the bank was reviewing its U.S. franchise, which has suffered from lack of scale and the consequences of its disastrous $15 billion acquisition of consumer lender Household in 2003.
Few of the bank’s identified areas for growth focused on its investment banking business, which has suffered an exodus of high-profile dealmakers in Europe in recent months amid frustration at a lack of clear strategy.