HSBC Holdings plc is a British multinational investment bank and financial services holding company. It was the 7th largest bank in the world by 2018, and the largest in Europe, with total assets of US$2.558 trillion (as of December 2018). HSBC traces its origin to a hong in Hong Kong, and its present form was established in London by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation to act as a new group holding company in 1991. The origins of the bank lie mainly in Hong Kong and to a lesser extent in Shanghai, where branches were first opened in 1865. The HSBC name is derived from the initials of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation. The company was first formally incorporated in 1866.
HSBC has around 3,900 offices in 67 countries and territories across Africa, Asia, Oceania, Europe, North America, and South America, and around 38 million customers. As of 2014, it was the world's sixth-largest public company, according to a composite measure by Forbes magazine.
HSBC has a dual primary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange and London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the Hang Seng Index and the FTSE 100 Index. As of 6 July 2012, it had a market capitalisation of £102.7 billion, the second-largest company listed on the London Stock Exchange, after Royal Dutch Shell. It has secondary listings on the New York Stock Exchange, Euronext Paris, and the Bermuda Stock Exchange.
The Hongkong and Shanghai Bank was founded by Scotsman Thomas Sutherland in the then-British colony of Hong Kong on 3 March 1865, and in Shanghai a month later, benefiting from the start of trading into China, including opium trading. It was formally incorporated as The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation by an Ordinance of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong on 14 August 1866. In 1980, HSBC acquired a 51% shareholding in US-based Marine Midland Bank, which it extended to full ownership in 1987. On 6 October 1989, it was renamed by the Legislative Council, by an amendment to its governing ordinance originally made in 1929, to The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, and became registered as a regulated bank with the then Banking Commissioner of the Government of Hong Kong.
HSBC Holdings plc, originally incorporated in England and Wales, was a non-trading, dormant shelf company when it completed its transformation on 25 March 1991 into the parent holding company to the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited now as a subsidiary, in preparation for its purchase of the UK-based Midland Bank and the impending transfer of sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. HSBC Holdings' acquisition of Midland Bank was completed in 1992 and gave HSBC a substantial market presence in the United Kingdom. As part of the takeover conditions for the acquisition, HSBC Holdings plc was required to relocate its world headquarters from Hong Kong to London in 1993.
Major acquisitions in South America started with the purchase of the Banco Bamerindus of Brazil for $1 billion in March 1997 and the acquisition of Roberts SA de Inversiones of Argentina for $600 million in May 1997. In May 1999, HSBC expanded its presence in the United States with the purchase of Republic National Bank of New York for $10.3 billion.
Expansion into Continental Europe took place in April 2000 with the acquisition of Crédit Commercial de France, a large French bank for £6.6 billion. In July 2001 HSBC bought Demirbank, an insolvent Turkish bank. In July 2002, Arthur Andersen announced that HSBC USA, Inc., through a new subsidiary, Wealth and Tax Advisory Services USA Inc. (WTAS), would purchase a portion of Andersen's tax practice. The new HSBC Private Client Services Group would serve the wealth and tax advisory needs of high-net-worth individuals. Then in August 2002 HSBC acquired Grupo Financiero Bital, SA de CV, Mexico's third largest retail bank for $1.1 billion.
In November 2002, HSBC expanded further in the United States. Under the chairmanship of John Bond, it spent £9 billion (US$15.5 billion) to acquire Household Finance Corporation (HFC), a US credit card issuer and subprime lender. In a 2003 cover story, The Banker noted "when banking historians look back, they may conclude that [it] was the deal of the first decade of the 21st century". Under the new name of HSBC Finance, the division was the second largest subprime lender in the United States.
In September 2003 HSBC bought Polski Kredyt Bank SA of Poland for $7.8 million. In June 2004 HSBC expanded into China buying 19.9% of the Bank of Communications of Shanghai. In the United Kingdom HSBC acquired Marks & Spencer Retail Financial Services Holdings Ltd for £763 million in December 2004. Acquisitions in 2005 included Metris Inc, a US credit card issuer for $1.6 billion in August and 70.1% of Dar es Salaam Investment Bank of Iraq in October. In April 2006, HSBC bought the 90 branches in Argentina of Banca Nazionale del Lavoro for $155 million. In December 2007 HSBC acquired the Chinese Bank in Taiwan. In May 2008, HSBC acquired IL&FS Investment, an Indian retail broking firm.
In 2005, Bloomberg Markets magazine accused HSBC of money laundering for drug dealers and state sponsors of terrorism. Then-CEO Stephen Green said that "This was a singular and wholly irresponsible attack on the bank's international compliance procedures", but subsequent investigation indicated that it was accurate and proved that the bank was involved in money laundering for the Sinaloa Cartel and throughout Mexico. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer characterised HSBC compliance during this period as "stunning failures of oversight and worse. The record of dysfunction that prevailed at HSBC for many years was astonishing."
In 2007, HSBC wrote down its holdings of subprime-related mortgage securities by $10.5 billion, becoming the first major bank to report its losses due to the unfolding subprime mortgage crisis.
According to Bloomberg, "HSBC is one of world's strongest banks by some measures". When HM Treasury required all UK banks to increase their capital in October 2007, the group transferred £750 million to London within hours, and announced that it had just lent £4 billion to other UK banks.
In March 2009, HSBC announced that it would shut down the branch network of its HSBC Finance arm in the United States, leading to nearly 6,000 job losses and leaving only the credit card business to continue operating. Chairman Stephen Green stated, "HSBC has a reputation for telling it as it is. With the benefit of hindsight, this is an acquisition we wish we had not undertaken." According to analyst Colin Morton, "the takeover was an absolute disaster".
In March 2009, it announced that it had made US$9.3 billion of profit in 2008 and announced a £12.5 billion (US$17.7 billion; HK$138 billion) rights issue to enable it to buy other banks that were struggling to survive. However, uncertainty over the rights issue's implications for institutional investors caused volatility in the Hong Kong stock market: on 9 March 2009 HSBC's share price fell 24.14%, with 12 million shares sold in the last few seconds of trading.
On 11 May 2011 the new chief executive Stuart Gulliver announced that HSBC would refocus its business strategy and that a large-scale retrenchment of operations, particularly in respect of the retail sector, was planned. HSBC would no longer seek to be 'the world's local bank', as costs associated with this were spiralling and US$3.5 billion needed to be saved by 2013, with the aim of bringing overheads down from 55% of revenues to 48%. In 2010, then-chairman Stephen Green planned to depart HSBC to accept a government appointment in the Trade Ministry. Group Chief Executive Michael Geoghegan was expected to become the next chairman. However, while many current and former senior employees supported the tradition of promoting the chief executive to chairman, many shareholders instead pushed for an external candidate. HSBC's board of directors had reportedly been split over the succession planning and investors were alarmed that the row would damage the company.
On 23 September 2010, Geoghegan announced he would step down as chief executive of HSBC. He was succeeded as chief executive by Stuart Gulliver, while Green was succeeded as Chairman by Douglas Flint; Flint was serving as HSBC's finance director (chief financial officer). August 2011: Further to CEO Stuart Gulliver's plan to cut $3.5 billion in costs over the next two years, HSBC announced that it will cut 25,000 jobs and exit from 20 countries by 2013 in addition to 5,000 job cuts announced earlier in the year. The consumer banking division of HSBC will focus on the UK, Hong Kong, high-growth markets such as Mexico, Singapore, Turkey and Brazil, and smaller countries where it has a leading market share. According to Reuters, Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver told the media, "There will be further job cuts. There will be something like 25,000 roles eliminated between now and the end of 2013."
In August 2011 "to align our U.S. business with our global network and meet the local and international needs of domestic and overseas clients", HSBC agreed to sell 195 branches in New York and Connecticut to First Niagara Financial Group Inc, and divestures to KeyCorp, Community Bank, N.A. and Five Star Bank for around $1 billion, and announced the closure of 13 branches in Connecticut and New Jersey. The rest of HSBC's U.S. network will only be about half from a total 470 branches before divestments. On 9 August 2011, Capital One Financial Corp. agreed to acquire HSBC's U.S. credit card business for $2.6 billion, netting HSBC Holdings an estimated after-tax profit of $2.4 billion. In September it was announced that HSBC sought to sell its general insurance business for around $1 billion.
In 2012, HSBC was the subject of hearings of the U.S. Senate permanent subcommittee for investigations for severe deficiencies in its anti-money laundering practices (see #Controversies). On 16 July the committee presented its findings. Among other things, it concluded that HSBC had been transferring $7 billion in banknotes from its Mexican to its US subsidiary (much of it related to drug dealing), was disregarding terrorist financing links and was actively circumventing US safeguards to block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords and rogue regimes, including hiding $19.4 billion in transactions with Iran. This investigation followed on from a probe by the US Federal Reserve and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency found that there was "significant potential for unreported money laundering or terrorist financing".
On 11 December 2012, HSBC agreed to pay a record $1.92 billion fine in this money laundering case. "Bank officials repeatedly ignored internal warnings that HSBC's monitoring systems were inadequate, the Justice Department said. In 2008, for example, the CEO of HSBC Mexico was told that Mexican law enforcement had a recording of a Mexican drug lord saying that HSBC Mexico was the place to launder money." The United States Department of Justice, however, decided not to pursue criminal penalties, a decision which the New York Times labelled a "dark day for the rule of law." HSBC chief executive Stuart Gulliver said: "We accept responsibility for our past mistakes. We have said we are profoundly sorry for them, and we do so again."
A 32-page brochure published on the HSBC website provides details of 2012 results in terms of markets, strategies, and businesses, as well as giving an outline of future plans.
In July 2013, Alan Keir was appointed Chief Executive of HSBC Bank plc after Brian Robertson resigned from his post. Keir's duties include overseeing the firm's UK, European, Middle Eastern and African divisions.
In June 2014, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary HSBC Life (UK) Limited agreed to sell its £4.2 billion UK pensions business to Swiss Re. In February 2015 the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released information about the business conduct of HSBC under the title Swiss Leaks based on the 2007 hacked HSBC account records from whistleblower Hervé Falciani. The ICIJ alleges that the bank profited from doing business with corrupt politicians, dictators, tax evaders, dealers of blood diamonds, arms dealers and other clients. US Senate investigators in 2012 had sought the hacked HSBC account records from Falciani and French authorities, but never received the data.
HSBC announced in August 2015 that it would be selling its Brazilian unit to Banco Bradesco for $5.2 billion following years of disappointing performance. In 2015, HSBC was recognised as the most trusted foreign bank in India by The Brand Trust Report 2015.
In 2016, the bank was mentioned numerous times in connection with the Panama Papers investigation. Many Syrians were angered when their accounts were judged high-risk and closed, despite the bank reportedly telling Mossack Fonseca it was "comfortable" with Rami Makhlouf as a customer, even though US Treasury sanctions against him were in effect at the time.
In May 2016, HSBC announced that it would shut 24 of its 50 branches in India over the following several months, reducing its presence in the country to fourteen cities.
On 20 March 2017, the British newspaper The Guardian reported that hundreds of banks had helped launder KGB-related funds out of Russia, as uncovered by an investigation named Global Laundromat. HSBC was listed among the 17 banks in the UK that were "facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme and why they did not turn away suspicious money transfers," as HSBC "processed $545.3m in Laundromat cash, mostly routed through its Hong Kong branch." Other banks facing scrutiny under the investigation included the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Lloyds, Barclays and Coutts. In response, HSBC stated that it was against financial crime, and that the case "highlights the need for greater information sharing between the public and private sectors."
On 1 October 2017, Mark Tucker succeeded Douglas Flint as Group Chairman of HSBC, the first non-executive and outside chairman appointed by the group. Also in October 2017, HSBC announced that John Flint, Chief Executive of Retail Banking and Wealth Management, would succeed Stuart Gulliver as Group Chief Executive on 21 February 2018. It was further announced on 5 August 2019 that Flint was leaving and his role would be filled on a temporary basis by Noel Quinn, head of HSBC's global commercial bank.
HSBC has its world headquarters at 8 Canada Square in Canary Wharf, London. It has a significant presence in each of the world's major financial markets, with the Americas, Asia Pacific and Europe each representing around one third of its business. HSBC is the largest bank in Hong Kong and prints most of Hong Kong's local currency in its own name.
- As of 2014, according to Relsbank, HSBC was the fourth-largest bank in the world by assets (with $2,670.00 billion), the second largest in terms of revenues (with $146.50 billion) and the largest in terms of market value (with $180.81 billion).
- It was also the most profitable bank in the world with $19.13 billion in net income in 2007 (compared to Citigroup's $3.62 billion and Bank of America's $14.98 billion in the same period).
- In June 2006, The Economist stated that since the end of 2005 HSBC has been rated the largest banking group in the world by Tier 1 capital. In June 2014 The Banker ranked HSBC first in Western Europe and 5th in the world for Tier 1 capital.
- In February 2008, HSBC was named the world's most valuable banking brand by The Banker magazine.
- HSBC has been audited by PwC, one of the Big Four auditors since 2015.
In preparation for Brexit, HSBC announced that it will be facing as much as $300 million in legal and relocation fees as it plans to relocate 1,000 staff members from London to Paris. In the second quarter of 2017, the bank had $4 million in charges for "costs associated with the U.K.'s exit from the EU". HSBC plans to move roughly one-fifth of its London-based investment bankers to its Paris offices in order to maintain a continuous access point to the European Union's single market. While its headquarters will remain in London, the staff movement is expected to avoid a loss of $1 billion of revenue after Brexit.
These are HSBC's subsidiaries worldwide:
- HSBC Bank Armenia
- HSBC Bank Australia
- HSBC Bank India
- The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Hang Seng Bank HSBC Bank (China) Company
- HSBC Bank Malaysia
- HSBC Japan
- HSBC Korea
- HSBC Bank Indonesia
- HSBC Bangladesh
- HSBC Bank Philippines
- HSBC Sri Lanka
- HSBC Singapore
- HSBC Taiwan
- HSBC Thailand
- HSBC Bank Vietnam
HSBC ceased retail banking operations in Thailand and Japan in 2012. HSBC entered Brunei in 1947 but commenced winding down its operations on April 2016 citing the bank's optimisation of its global network and reduced complexity.
- HSBC Bank Malta
- HSBC Bank (Europe) HSBC France HSBC Trinkaus und Burkhardt AG HSBC Greece
- HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA
- HSBC UK Bank plc
Further, HSBC Private Bank is a name for UK-based private banking division. HSBC Bank International is the offshore banking division of the HSBC Group based in St Helier, Jersey that focuses on providing offshore solutions and cross border services to expatriates and migrants.
- HSBC Bank Bermuda
- HSBC Bank Canada
- HSBC Bank USA
- HSBC Finance Corporation
- HSBC México
- HSBC Securities (USA) Inc
HSBC organises its customer-facing activities within four business groups: Commercial Banking; Global Banking and Markets (investment banking); Retail Banking and Wealth Management (RBWM); and Global Private Banking.
HSBC provides financial services to small, medium-sized and middle-market enterprises. The group has more than 2 million such customers, including sole proprietors, partnerships, clubs and associations, incorporated businesses and publicly quoted companies.
In December 2015, HSBC announced that Noel Quinn will succeed Simon Cooper as the chief executive officer of Commercial Banking. Simon Cooper has decided to leave the bank to pursue other opportunities.
Global Banking and Markets is the investment banking arm of HSBC. It provides investment banking and financing solutions for corporate and institutional clients, including corporate banking, investment banking, capital markets, trade services, payments and cash management, and leveraged acquisition finance. It provides services in equities, credit and rates, foreign exchange, money markets and securities services, in addition to asset management services. Global Banking and Markets has offices in more than 60 countries and territories worldwide, and describes itself as "emerging markets-led and financing-focused". It is currently being led by former fixed-income trader Samir Assaf, who was promoted from global head of markets on 10 December 2010.
HSBC Private Bank is the marketing name for the private banking business conducted by the principal private banking subsidiaries of the HSBC Group worldwide. HSBC Private Bank, together with the private banking activities of HSBC Trinkaus, known collectively as Group Private Banking, provides services to high-net-worth individuals and their families through 93 locations in some 42 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. According to the Scorpio Partnership Global Private Banking Benchmark 2014, the bank had US$382 Bn of assets under management (AuM) a decrease of 4% on the 2013 figure.
In September 2008, HSBC announced that it would combine its two Swiss private banks under one brand name in 2009, with HSBC Guyerzeller and HSBC Private Bank to be merged into one legal entity, under the newly appointed CEO of HSBC Private Bank, Alexandre Zeller.
In September 2018, HSBC announced that Antonio Simoes will replace Peter Boyles as chief executive for global private banking from January 2019. Peter Boyles, a 43 years veteran with HSBC, has decided to retire from the bank.
HSBC provides more than 54 million customers worldwide with a full range of personal financial services, including current and savings accounts, mortgage loans, car financing, insurance, credit cards, loans, pensions and investments. Retail Banking and Wealth Management (also known as RBWM) was previously referred to as Personal Financial Services (PFS). This rename was announced during HSBC's 2011 Investor Day.
As a cost-saving measure HSBC is offshoring processing work to lower cost economies in order to reduce the cost of providing services in developed countries. These locations take on work such as data processing and customer service, but also internal software engineering at Pune (India), Gurgaon (India), Bangalore (India), Chennai (India), Hyderabad (India), Vishakhapatnam (India), Kolkata (India), Guangzhou (China), Curitiba (Brazil) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). Chief Operating Officer Alan Jebson said in March 2005 that he would be very surprised if fewer than 25,000 people were working in the centres over the next three years: "I don't have a precise target but I would be surprised if we had less than 15 (global service centres) in three years' time." He went on to say that each centre cost the bank from $20m to $30m to set up, but that for every job moved the bank saves about $20,000 (£10,400). Trades unions, particularly in the UK and US, blame these centres for job losses in developed countries, and also for the effective imposition of wage caps on their members.
Global product lines
HSBC Direct is a telephone/online direct banking operation which attracts customers through mortgages, accounts and savings. It was first launched in the USA in November 2005 and is based on HSBC's 'First Direct' subsidiary in Britain which was launched in the 1980s. The service is now also available in Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, France and India. Poland is launching business direct in September 2009. In the US, HSBC Direct is now part of HSBC Advance.
HSBCnet provides access to transaction banking functionality – ranging from payments and cash management to trade services features – as well as to research and analytical content from HSBC. It also includes foreign exchange and money markets trading functionality. The system is used widely by HSBC's high-end corporate and institutional clients served variously by the bank's global banking and markets, commercial banking and global transaction banking divisions. HSBCnet is also the brand under which HSBC markets its global e-commerce proposition to its corporate and institutional clients.
HSBC Advance is the group's product aimed at working professionals. The exact benefits and qualifications vary depending on country, but typically require a transfer of Salary of US$1,500 or more every month or Maintain USD 25,000 of deposits in a Savings/Current Account or investments. Advantages may vary depending on country, such as day-to-day banking services including but not limited to a Platinum Credit Card, Advance ATM Card, Current Account and Savings Account. Protection plans and Financial Planning Services. A HSBC Advance customer enables the customer to open accounts in another country and transfer their credit history.
HSBC Premier is the group's premium financial services product. It has its own Elite Card entitled HSBC Premier World Card. The exact benefits and qualification criteria vary depending on country. Customers have a dedicated Premier Relationship Manager, global 24-hour access to call centres, free banking services and preferential rates. A HSBC Premier customer receives the HSBC Premier services in all countries that offer HSBC Premier, without having to meet that country's qualifying criteria ("Premier in One, Premier in All").
HSBC Jade is a new product by HSBC Premier, and is aimed at individuals with net worths between $1 million and $5 million in investible assets with HSBC. Exact qualifications vary between countries. There are also credit card offers depending on the country. Before qualification, members must be HSBC Premier members.
- Group Chairman: Mark Tucker (October 2017 to present) 
- Interim Group Chief Executive: Noel Quinn (August 2019 to present) 
In both 2003 and 2010, U.S. regulators ordered HSBC to strengthen its anti-money laundering practices. In October 2010, the United States OCC issued a Cease and Desist Order requiring HSBC to strengthen multiple aspects of its Anti-Money Laundering (AML) program. The identified problems included a once massive backlog of over 17,000 alerts identifying suspicious activity, failure to file timely suspicious activity reports with U.S. law enforcement, failure to conduct any due diligence to assess risks to HSBC affiliates before opening correspondent accounts for them, a three-year failure by HBUS from mid-2006 to mid-2009 to conduct any AML of $15 billion in bulk cash transactions from those same HSBC affiliates, failure to monitor $60 trillion in annual wire transfers by customers in countries rated lower risk by HBUS, and inadequate and unqualified AML staffing, resources, and leadership. It was noted that HSBC fully cooperated with the Senate investigation.
On 19 July 2012, India investigated alleged violation of safety compliance, in which Indian employees were believed to be involved. On 9 November 2012, Indian activist and politician Arvind Kejriwal said he had details of 700 Indian bank accounts hiding black money with a total value of ₹60 billion (US$870 million) with HSBC in Geneva. In June 2013, a media outlet in India did an undercover expose where HSBC officers were caught on camera agreeing to launder "black money." HSBC placed these employees on leave pending their own internal investigation.
In November 2012 it was reported that HSBC had set up offshore accounts in Jersey for suspected drug-dealers and other criminals, and that HM Revenue and Customs had launched an investigation following a whistle blower leaking details of £700 million allegedly held in HSBC accounts in the Crown dependency .
Following search warrants and raids beginning in January 2013, in mid-March 2013 Argentina's main taxing authority accused HSBC of using fake receipts and dummy accounts to facilitate money laundering and tax evasion.
In early February 2013, appearing before UK's Parliamentary Banking Standards Commission, CEO Stuart Gulliver acknowledged that the structure of the bank had been "not fit for purpose." He also stated, "Matters that should have been shared and escalated were not shared and escalated." HSBC has also been accused of laundering money for terrorist groups.
In June 2015 HSBC was fined by the Geneva authorities after an investigation into money laundering within its Swiss subsidiary. The fine was 40 million Swiss Francs.
In July 2012, a US Senate committee issued a report which stated that HSBC had been in breach of money-laundering rules, and had assisted Iran and North Korea to circumvent US nuclear-weapons sanctions.
In December 2012, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer suggested that the U.S. government might resist criminal prosecution of HSBC which could lead to the loss of the bank's U.S. charter. He stated, "Our goal here is not to bring HSBC down, it's not to cause a systemic effect on the economy, it's not for people to lose thousands of jobs."
In December 2012, HSBC was penalised $1.9 billion (US), the largest fine under the Bank Secrecy Act, for violating four U.S. laws designed to protect the U.S. financial system. HSBC had allegedly laundered at least $881 million in drugs proceeds through the U.S. financial system for international cartels, as well as processing an additional $660 million for banks in US sanctioned countries. According to the report, "The U.S. bank subsidiary [also] failed to monitor more than $670 billion in wire transfers and more than $9.4 billion in purchases of physical dollars from its Mexico unit." As part of the agreement deferring its prosecution, HSBC acknowledged that for years it had ignored warning signs that drug cartels in Mexico were using its branches to launder millions of dollars, and also acknowledged that HSBC's international staff had stripped identifying information on transactions made through the United States from countries facing economic sanctions such as Iran and Sudan.
A February 2013 article in Rolling Stone magazine, which was critical of what they regarded as the timid response by the U.S. Justice Department, stated "Yes, they issued a fine – $1.9 billion, or about five weeks' profit – but they didn't extract so much as one dollar or one day in jail from any individual, despite a decade of stupefying abuses" and further stated, "In this case, the bank literally got away with murder – well, aiding and abetting it, anyway." A December 2012 CNNMoney article compared the 1.9 billion dollar fine to HSBC's profit "last year" (2011) of 16.8 billion.
The bank was fined US$275m by the US CFTC in 2014 for taking part in the Forex scandal. The bank also settled for US$18m in the related Libor scandal and EUR 33m for the Euribor rate scandal (relative to other banks a small amount).
In February 2015, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released information about the bank's business conduct under the title Swiss Leaks. The ICIJ alleges that the bank profited from doing business with tax evaders and other clients. The BBC reported that the bank had put pressure on media not to report about the controversy, with British newspaper The Guardian claiming bank advertising had been put "on pause" after The Guardian's coverage of the matter. Peter Oborne, chief political commentator at The Daily Telegraph, resigned from the paper and in an open letter claimed the newspaper suppressed negative stories and dropped investigations into HSBC because of the bank's advertising.
In July 2016 the United States Department of Justice charged two executives from HSBC Bank over an alleged $3.5 billion currency scheme which defrauded HSBC clients and "manipulated the foreign exchange market to benefit themselves and their bank". "Mark Johnson and Stuart Scott, both British citizens, are being accused". "Johnson was arrested late Tuesday [19 July 2016] at JFK International Airport in New York City."  "Stuart Scott, who was HSBC's European head of foreign exchange trading in London until December 2014, is accused of the same crimes. A warrant was issued for Scott's arrest."  Mark Johnson was convicted of nine counts of wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud related to front running the currency trades of HSBC clients.
In December 2018, The Jerusalem Post reported that HSBC confirmed that the bank would divest from Elbit Systems Ltd., Israel's largest non-government-owned military contractor, active in numerous defence-related industries. HSBC justified its decision by claiming it "strongly supports observance of international human rights principles as they apply to business." In response, the group Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) released a press release in which it "declared a victory" and quoted PSC director Ben Jamal saying the decision demonstrates "the effectiveness of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as a tactic." JewishPress.com reported that multiple sources claimed HSBC's decision was not influenced by the BDS movement but was an "investment decision." In an editorial titled "Bad Banking", The Jerusalem Post wrote, "HSBC, if this is your final decision, you will go down on the wrong side of history. Do you understand that Israel is using Elbit technology to protect itself against Palestinian terror, and not to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people? If you are really concerned about human rights, perhaps you might consider using some of your own income to invest in the Palestinian economy, and boost cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian institutions."
The bank is known for a conservative and risk-averse approach to business – a company tradition going back to the 19th century. In its technical management, however, HSBC has suffered a series of headline-making incidents in which some customer data were allegedly leaked or simply went missing. Although the consequences turned out to be small, the embarrassing effect on the group's image did not go unnoticed.
According to Global Witness and cited by BBC, "billions of dollars of assets" were held by the bank for the Libyan Investment Authority, controlled by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Following Gaddafi's overthrow the bank declined to reveal information about the funds citing customer confidentiality.
In the report titled "In the Future There Will Be No Forests Left" produced by Global Witness, the bank was accused of supporting the seven largest Malaysian timber conglomerates which are responsible for deforestation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak. The bank declined to divulge its clients citing client confidentiality but maintains that the accusations are not accurate. The environmentalist group Greenpeace has also alleged that the bank is contributing to the deforestation in Indonesia and subsequent hazardous impacts in the region by providing funds to palm oil producers for new plantations. The bank has denied these claims citing its sustainability policy that prohibits the bank from financing projects that "damage high conservation value forest." 
The bank was reported to have refused large cash withdrawals for customers without a third-party letter confirming what the money would be used for. Douglas Carswell, the Conservative MP for Clacton, was alarmed by the policy: "All these regulations which have been imposed on banks allow enormous interpretation. It basically infantilises the customer. In a sense your money becomes pocket money and the bank becomes your parent."
In 2014, the bank closed North London Central Mosque's account and many of their Muslim clients' and groups' accounts. Several sources report that this was due to money being used to fund Hamas-linked charities during the 2014 Israel–Gaza war.
The group announced in November 1998 that the HSBC brand and the hexagon symbol would be adopted as the unified brand in all the markets where HSBC operates, with the aim of enhancing recognition of the group and its values by customers, shareholders and staff throughout the world. The hexagon symbol was originally adopted by the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation as its logo in 1983. It was developed from the bank's house flag, a white rectangle divided diagonally to produce a red hourglass shape. Like many other Hong Kong company flags that originated in the 19th century, and because of its founder's nationality, the design was based on the cross of Saint Andrew. The logo was designed by Austrian graphic artist Henry Steiner.
Having sponsored the Jaguar Racing Formula One team since the days of Stewart Grand Prix, HSBC ended its relationship with motorsport after seven years when Red Bull purchased Jaguar Racing from Ford.
In the mid 2000s, HSBC switched its focus to golf, taking title sponsorship of several events such as the HSBC World Match Play Championship, HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship (now defunct), WGC-HSBC Champions, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, HSBC Women's Champions, HSBC Golf Business Forum and HSBC Golf Roots (a youth development programme). HSBC was named the 'Official Banking Partner' of the Open Championship, in a five-year deal announced in 2010.
In October 2010 the International Rugby Board announced that they had concluded a 5-year deal with HSBC which granted them status as the first ever title sponsor of the World Sevens Series. Through the accord, HSBC is paying more than $100 million for the title naming rights to all the tournaments. HSBC opted to sub-license the naming rights to all but one of the individual tournaments, while retaining its name sponsorship of the overall series and the Hong Kong Sevens. The company also sponsors the Hong Kong Rugby Union and the New South Wales Waratahs team in Super Rugby. It sponsored British and Irish Lions during their 2009 tour to South Africa and 2013 tour to Australia.
HSBC is the official banking partner of the Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament, providing banking facilities on site and renaming the junior event as the HSBC Road to Wimbledon National 14 and Under Challenge.