HSBC pivoting for success after century and a half in Vietnam

November 03, 2020 | 08:07
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With roots dating back 150 years in Vietnam, when HSBC opened its first office in Ho Chi Minh City in 1870, the international lender now boasts unparalleled understanding of the country to complement its robust global network and long-standing global reputation. Tim Evans, CEO of HSBC Vietnam, shared with VIR’s Celine Luu the bank’s journey to bring top-notch tailored services to its customers, as well as its ambition to go above and beyond to help Vietnam become a magnet for high-quality overseas funds.
hsbc pivoting for success after century and a half in vietnam
Tim Evans – CEO of HSBC Vietnam

It has been a year since you moved to Vietnam. During this time, what opinion have you formed of the economy, financial landscape, and the people of the country?

As one of the most spectacular growth stories in the world, Vietnam’s economic resilience never ceases to amaze me, even in the face of escalating tensions and global financial hardships.

When I arrived in Vietnam a year ago, the country enjoyed strong growth momentum, with GDP expansion at around 7 per cent. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

However, Vietnam has stood out as a beacon for the whole world to see how to cope with the pandemic. I am deeply impressed and inspired by the local government’s swift, drastic, and proactive measures to contain the outbreak – and so are international organisations.

Regarding its financial landscape, the country is always high on our agenda thanks to its healthy appeal to foreign direct investment (FDI), rising share of global exports, and a consistent reduction in debt levels among listed companies.

As one of the largest and most comprehensive foreign banks in Vietnam, HSBC is committed to continuing to leverage our network and make this remarkable country an accessible and profitable destination for investors.

How do you perceive the economy in Vietnam in the coming time?

Vietnam is one of the brightest stars of the emerging markets universe. I have no doubt in the country’s immense potential, fueled by the government’s solid efforts in creating a more business-friendly climate.

I think there are three key themes the Vietnamese economy will feature in the next 3-5 years.

The first one will be the rise of the aspiring affluent people. This will fuel the growth of the middle class and HSBC aims to target the top end of this market segment through our retail banking proposition.

On the wholesale banking and corporate banking side, we see two key themes. One is the continuing growth in FDI as supply chains continue to shift. Vietnam is well placed to benefit from this trend which predates Covid but will be amplified after it results in more foreign investment coming to Vietnam.

The other theme is the growing sophistication of Vietnamese corporates. As they continue to evolve, they will need more complex and more sophisticated solutions. HSBCs capabilities developed and learned from other markets, will be brought to Vietnam to support Vietnamese corporates in their quest to become world class.

The final theme is Vietnam’s move from a frontier market to the emerging market status from an equity investment perspective. HSBC is working closely with authorities to assist in making this happen. This will enable Vietnamese corporates to attract larger and more diverse investors to their equity base.

This year marked a significant milestone – 150th year anniversary for HSBC’s journey in Vietnam. How has HSBC been moving forward with Vietnam in the last 150 years?

From our earliest days in Vietnam, HSBC’s actions have always been driven by the motto of actively contributing to the country’s prosperity and development.

HSBC has been part of the long history of Vietnam through both its ups and its downs. As a bank with trade finance in its DNA, we are proud to have helped contribute to the country’s exciting journey. From when we were first establishment 150 years ago, HSBC’s purpose has never changed.

We continue to work to enable businesses to thrive and thereby assist them and the economy to prosper, with the ultimate objective of helping the Vietnamese to fulfil their hopes and realise their ambitions. We hope to actively contribute to the country’s ongoing development for another 150 years and beyond.

Throughout our history in the country we also aim to bring innovative financial services that are often the first-of-their-kind in Vietnam.

For instance, we were the first foreign bank to be licensed by the State Securities Commission to operate in the local securities market in July 2000.

In 2014, HSBC served as joint book runners and dealer managers for the issue of $1 billion 10-year Global Bonds of the Ministry of Finance, on behalf of the government. This was the first international offering from the Vietnam government since January 2010.

Most recently, HSBC became the first-ever foreign commercial bank to issue local currency bonds in Vietnam, releasing a total of $26.1 million of bonds. Thanks to our global reputation, our strategy for the market going forward and our performance, this proved to be of significant interest to investors.

How does HSBC support customers and what recognitions of excellence have you gained for your services?

We are honoured that HSBC business excellence is broadly recognised, with a number of prestigious awards that reflect our influence on the financial landscape throughout Vietnam and across the globe. Most recently, HSBC has been named Asia’s Best Bank for Sustainable Finance for the third year by Euromoney Awards for Excellence 2020.

In July, HSBC Vietnam was also awarded Best International Bank in Vietnam by FinanceAsia – for the 14th time in 15 years, which underscored our growth in this exciting market, even in these challenging times.

We have also just recently rolled out the first green package to Duy Tan Plastics Recycling Factory, which is under our commitment to provide $100 billion of sustainable financing and investment by 2025.

HSBC’s green financing shows the long-term vision of both organisations in building Vietnam’s sustainable economy.

What is the most critical factor behind HSBC’s recognition as the best international bank in Vietnam?

We are blessed to have amongst the very best people at HSBC whether we look from a capability, attitude or work ethic perspective. In addition, we are also continuously fostering a culture of supporting employees to fulfil their career aspirations and an environment where everyone can speak up and make suggestions around improvements.

We have a very young team, with the average age of 29. Many of these people haven’t gone through a crisis before but their level of resilience, their character, their positive outlook has been unbelievable. At the end of April, 93 per cent of our team started to work from home. I didn’t hear any complaints and all the surveys show that they have stayed very positive in their outlook which gives us a lot of energy and passion that maybe you cannot see in other places.

Furthermore, as an international bank with great diversity in our ranks, we also encourage a “No Boundaries” environment for HSBC’s colleagues to develop themselves in new areas and fulfil their career aspirations. For instance, Oanh Tran, former head of Corporate Banking South at Wholesale Banking, is appointed as new Head of Human Resources of HSBC Vietnam.

hsbc pivoting for success after century and a half in vietnam
To Tim Evans, human resource is the most crucial element for the success of HSBC

HSBC is very open about its aspiration of retain the leading position of an international bank in Vietnam. What are your strategies to realise these ambitions and to uplift HSBC to greater heights?

We have very clear priorities to maintain our position by enhancing HSBC Vietnam’s customer value proposition.

On one hand, we will double-down in areas where we feel we have a market leading position, which is our ability to connect Vietnam and our customers to the world, linking Vietnamese corporates to new opportunities outside the country, while also supporting our international customers who are looking to invest further in Vietnam.

We will leverage our tremendous global network to reach out to those who can truly benefit from it: the growing affluent segment with highly mobile individuals in Vietnam. This customer base represents a significant opportunity for us to capture. We are leveraging our market-leading international banking capabilities and a highly distinctive proposition for this high net worth individuals (HNWI) segment through our privileged banking solutions, such as HSBC Premier.

With the HSBC Premier account, customers and their children can enjoy exclusive privileges at HSBC Premier centers around the globe, 24/7 emergency support, exclusive benefits from leading educational institutions in the country and abroad, manage and make transfers between accounts, and transfer money globally without charging fees.

While strengthening our fundamentals, HSBC will also address the evolving needs of our clients in an increasingly inter-connected world by focusing on digital and innovation to create a digital banking experience for customers, helping them to access more opportunities.

We have in the past launched a number of game-changing digital products and services even before the COVID-19 outbreak, notably Vietnam’s first Omni-channel Collections Solution which was introduced last November. In the same year, we were also the first one to execute the first live blockchain Letter-of-Credit transaction in Vietnam.

Back in 2019, we were the first one to launch a digital journey allowing retail customers to apply for a credit card fully online. Just a few weeks ago, we have launched two new digital functions on our Mobile-X application that will greatly enhance the customer experience and deliver on the bank’s promise to make banking simpler, safer, and smarter.

I strongly believe that all the enhancements in both product and service will help HSBC to conquer the trust of customers and bring HSBC to greater heights in the hundreds of years ahead.

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