Commonly referred to simply as HSBC, the HSBC Holdings plc is the largest bank in the UK and the second largest bank in the world. Headquartered in the 45 storey tall tower at 8 Canada Square in London’s Canary Wharf, the bank has over 6,500 offices in more than 80 countries around the world including Europe, Americas, Asia and Africa, which are serving approximately 60 million clients ranging from private individuals to large multinational corporations.

Asian Origins

HSBC is today a British multinational bank but it wasn’t founded in Britain. It was founded in Hong Kong in 1865 when the city was a British territory and when the trade between China and Europe entered a period of an unprecedented growth. Thomas Sutherland (1834-1922), the co-founder of the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock recognised the need for a bank to finance China-Europe trade and established the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Company that was headquartered in Hong Kong. Within a month, a branch was launched in Shanghai and one year later, the bank opened a branch in Japan.

Expansion in the Early 20th Century and the Second World War

The bank grew rapidly in the early 20th century, opening new branch offices in the Philippines and Thailand as well as gaining new clients in the existing locations. The headquarter building - the HSBC Main Building - in Hong Kong thus quickly became too small. In 1933, the existing 19th century building was demolished and replaced by a new building which, however, was torn down as well in the 1970s to erect the current building, now home to The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (a subsidiary of HSBC).

Before the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in 1941, the Bank relocated its headquarters to London. It moved back after the end of the Second World War and entered a period of a massive international expansion which eventually made it one of the top 10 and later, one of the top 5 largest banks in the world.

Foundation of the Modern HSBC

Today’s HSBC was formally established only in 1991 as the parent company of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation before the latter acquired the UK-headquartered Midland Bank and before Britain transfered sovereignty of Hong Kong to China. In 1993, the newly created HSBC moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to London which was also one of the conditions for takeover of the Midland Bank.