Chris Allen, CEO of HSBC Private Bank in the UK and the Channel Islands, looks back at how the bank has fostered relationships with clients through the challenges of 2016


2016 has brought plenty of reasons to keep close to our clients.  The year started with volatility and uncertainty about how and when central banks would start to taper Quantitative Easing.  Referendums and elections in the UK, USA and Italy all raised new questions about change in some of the world’s biggest economies.  In talking to our clients about how this will affect them, their investments and their future plans, what has struck us is the constancy of their entrepreneurial drive to create and build.  It is more important than ever that we as an industry nurture that.

HSBC was established to finance trade, connecting our customers to opportunities. What we do in the Private Bank is an extension of that purpose: supporting business owners and entrepreneurs in their personal and family finances.  We provide them with advice on succession planning and family governance, as well as taking care of their complex borrowing and investment needs.  Our goal is to ensure that more of HSBC’s commercial banking customers’ are supported by the Private Bank. 

While the financial services industry faces some question marks over what the regulation of the services we provide our clients will look like post-Brexit, our priority in the aftermath of the EU referendum must be to focus on the issues that matter the most to clients. 

In the Private Bank we talked to clients individually about managing the risk in their portfolios ahead of the referendum, and about maximising opportunity when the picture became clearer.  Our colleagues in the commercial bank ran weekly webcasts on the impact that the Referendum result.  We know our clients valued this close communication and advice.

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Providing this 360 degree view of the commercial and personal financial needs of business owners has been our priority throughout the year.  In particular we have supported those on the journey to wealth who are starting to think about selling their businesses. 

Many entrepreneurs we have encountered post sale have told us they would have welcomed advice on how to get the future they wanted for themselves out of the sale, not just on getting the best price.  We have started to fill that gap by holding a series of events looking at the personal outcome of a business sale – and across the whole country we  saw an impressive turnout from business owners brimming with ambition. 

The benefits of the collaborative approach that HSBC’s universal banking model allows are also reflected in our results: more and stronger relationships with HSBC group clients have resulted in a good year for the Private Bank in the UK. 

The lesson we have drawn from 2016 has been that while circumstances might change, entrepreneurs will still drive businesses, job creation and trade.  Their human instinct to seek security for themselves and their families will remain. Within HSBC we have the ability to meet all of those needs in a joined-up and considered way.  Concentrating on those fundamentals must be the priority for 2017 too.