HSBC – the early history

HSBC Building in London

HSBC DubaiHSBC is one of the largest banking and financial services companies not only in London, but also in the world as a whole. Today it has offices in well over 80 countries all across the globe and the total assets of the company reach 2.67 trillion US dollars. But becoming one of the largest and most important financial institutions in the world did not happen overnight. It was a long and strenuous process that involved tons of work by thousands of people.

It all started in the Far East

The origins of the HSBC can be traced back to the middle of the 19th century  in the then British colony of Hong Kong. It was the 3 March 1865 when Sir Thomas Sutherland, a Scotsman by birth, established the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank. Exactly a month later an office of the new bank was opened in the city of Shanghai as well. The reason for the establishment of the new venture was the opening of the trade routes with China, which brought great benefits to the British Empire. It would be interesting to note that at that time, a considerable portion of that trade was connected to the export of opium as well. A year later, on 14 August 1866, the bank was incorporated into the so called Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) – the establishment which, with few minor legislative changes, we know today.

Fast Forward to the 20th century

HSBC OfficeGradually, the HSBC became a true leader in the banking industry in Asia. Many attribute this fast development to the nearly three-decade tenure of Sir Thomas Jackson, who became chief manager of the bank in 1876.  Eventually the HSBC started managing the accounts of the British Colonial Government all over the continent – in China, Japan, Penang and Singapore. Prior to WWII, new offices were also opened in Bangkok, Manila and Shanghai, while the chief offices of the venture, those in Hong Kong, were rebuilt in 1935.

WWII and relocation

A turning point of the history of the HSBC came with the commencement of World War II. More precisely, this happened with the Japanese entering the war. In 1941 it was already expected that they are going to occupy Hong Kong. This was the moment when an executive decision was made to move the bank’s offices to London, where they were to remain permanently in the following decades.

Years of steady expansion and the formation of the HSBC Group

HSBC Building in LondonThe War and the dissolution of the colonial system did not had a negative effect on the HSBC. Actually, the second half of the 20th century saw the greatest prosperity of the bank. It was in 1989 the establishment was renamed to The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited and in 1991 the HSBC Holding plc was created, which is the final phase of development and the form in which the corporation exists to this day.

HSBC – a brief timeline

  • March 1865 – Thomas Sutherland establishes the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation
  • April 1865 – an office in Shanghai is opened
  • 1876 – Thomas Jackson becomes chief manager
  • 1922 – an office in Manila is opened
  • 1941 – the headquarters of the corporation are moved to London
  • 1989 – renamed to The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited
  • 1991 – the HSBC Holdings plc is established