British bank HSBC (Hongkong  and Shanghai Banking Corp.) is marking 145 years of doing business in the Philippines and it intends to stay here for a much longer time as it helps the country cope with a global pandemic and promote sustainable recovery in a post-COVID-19 world.

 “HSBC was there at the dawn of the Philippines’ modern age, when it began accelerating and diversifying into international trade. The bank remains committed to the future of the Philippines by supporting the government’s nation-building efforts, and helping clients and customers to connect with sustainable growth opportunities near and far,” according to HSBC Philippines president and CEO Graham Fitzgerald.

hsbc2 - HSBC marks 145 years of PH operations
HSBC Philippines president and CEO Graham Fitzgerald

With the COVID-19 pandemic, which the bank expects will remain a “huge challenge”, Fitzgerald said they are looking at ways to transform the banking business in the country. “As we rebuild economies, we need to remember that an unsustainable recovery will not be a true recovery,” he said. He cited the bank’s ambition to align financed emissions or the carbon emitted by customers in our portfolio, to the Paris Agreement goal of net zero by 2050 or sooner.

 “Globally, it has committed to facilitating between $750 billion and $1 trillion of finance and investment by 2030 to help clients with their low-carbon transition. The  bank will also develop more transition finance solutions to help decarbonize the most emissions-intensive sectors, while helping to maintain economic stability,” said Fitzgerald.

HSBC said it is very much aware of how important this issue is to Asia and for the Philippines. “Here in the country, citizens are all too familiar with climate-driven natural disasters. An average of 20 storms and typhoons hit this island nation annually – the most recent being Typhoons Goni  and  Vamco.  With every severe typhoon comes flash flooding and landslides that destroy communities and livelihoods and decimate the infrastructure which forms the foundations of their future  prosperity. Huge investment in sustainable infrastructure is needed. Only a net-zero future can avert these dangers,” said Fitzgerald.

HSBC is one of the first foreign banks to conduct trade and finance in the country and a support system that helped build the ASEAN trading bloc.

Fitzgerald said the bank was just 10 years old when it established an office here, in 1875, and it was a time when the Philippines was the “Pearl of the Orient” as a popular port in sugar, rice, hemp, coffee and coconut oil” and other “abundant commodities (that) were attracting merchants and traders from around the region and beyond.”

HSBC was at the heart of this thriving port 145 years ago, according to Fitzgerald.

 “HSBC started by supporting the country’s major agricultural industries and financed some of the earliest sugar and rice mills,” he said. The bank, he continued, was also key in the development the Manila–Dagupan Railway which opened in 1883 and extended by 1906. “This ignited a new chapter for the country’s trade development as it enabled traders to connect with businesses in Luzon, allowing them to export goods overseas,” he said.

Fitzgerald said HSBC was here through the years and saw the economy grow from a whole agricultural-based country to electronics manufacturing for the global market, and “driven by the ever-rising commercial and consumer demand which  now is dominated  by  computers, smartphones, digital devices, ICT infrastructure, medical instruments, automotive components, and solar technology.” Electronics is about 60 percent of the country’s exports.

HSBC continue to provide local enterprises and multinational corporations with need “new routes and means to connect with opportunities especially across ASEAN,” the statement said, quoted to Fitzgerald. Thus HSBC  strategically grew from a single office in Manila’s business district to a larger branch network with back office operations to support an extensive global network, he added.

HSBC currently has a  global network in 64 countries and territories. “This international footprint has been key to achieving an ultimate purpose of being a super-connector for businesses – helping clients forge new partnerships and reach new markets,” he said.

Fitzgerald also said that the “enhanced connectivity today translates to doing more online (and) HSBC is already a substantially digital bank and is on track to spend more in 2020 on technology than ever before.”

The bank’s trade services operating model fits a digital future, said Fitzgerald. “Customers will benefit from more sophisticated, robust, rapid payment solutions, and easier trade payments. They’ll  see their money deliver more returns, faster.”

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