HSBC Plans to Split Oversight of Asia Between Two Co-Heads

HSBC Holdings Plc plans to split the job of overseeing its key Asian business as the bank’s regional boss Peter Wong prepares to step down from the role.

Europe’s largest lender plans to appoint Wong’s protege, David Liao, and the chief executive of its Indian business, Surendra Rosha, as joint heads of its Asian arm this year, people familiar with the matter said, asking not to be identified as details are private. Liao is likely to manage Greater China, while Rosha will oversee the rest of the region, one person said.

Wong is expected to take a non-executive chairman role at the bank’s Asian business, two people said. A bank spokeswoman declined to comment.

HSBC Plans to Split Oversight of Asia Between Two Co-Heads

A smooth transition is crucial for the bank, which is staking its future on the region by steering billions of dollars in capital toward Asia, while shrinking or exiting unprofitable operations in other parts of this world. Key to this is capitalizing on China’s rising affluence and its plans to create an economic powerhouse by linking Hong Kong closer to mainland cities such as Shenzhen and Guangzhou in the Greater Bay Area.

HSBC has also been seeking to deploy more resources across the rest of Asia, where it has been struggling to compete with dominant players such as Singapore’s DBS Group Holdings Ltd and rival Standard Chartered Plc. It recently announced it would expand into private banking in Thailand.

“We are accelerating the plan by confirming areas of focus for the bank, especially in Asia where we see real opportunities to grow our wealth business and expand across South Asia,” said Chairman Mark Tucker in January.

Wong, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the nation’s top political-advisory body, has nurtured relationships in Beijing during his five years as general manager of the bank’s China business. The issue of who will replace him is particularly pressing at a time when the bank’s relations with Beijing are under the microscope amid growing tensions between China and the West.

Liao, in his late forties, is the head of Asia-Pacific global banking and previously oversaw China for five years, gaining experience in dealing with officials and regulators. He was born in Hong Kong and educated in the U.K. The executive is popular among investors and analysts covering HSBC given his deep knowledge of Chinese markets, people familiar with the matter have said.

Rosha, in his early fifties, was appointed chief of HSBC’s India unit in July 2018. He joined the bank’s Indian operations in 1991 and has worked in multiple roles in foreign exchange trading and capital markets across a variety of countries.

Asia has continued to be the bank’s largest biggest profit center, but recent earnings there were relatively unchanged from a year earlier. As part of its pivot, HSBC is moving more of its top executives to Hong Kong, meaning that most of the bank will be run from the region on a day-to-day basis.

That overhaul met local resistance. Some senior executives in Greater China worry their push into the world’s second-largest economy could be slowed by added bureaucracy and blurred reporting lines, Bloomberg News has reported.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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