Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Opening Ceremony of HSBC's Headquarters in Singapore on 14 November 2022.
Mr Noel Quinn,
Group Chief Executive, HSBC Holdings
Your Excellency High Commissioner Kara Owen,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to be here with all of you here at the Marina Bay Financial Centre for the official opening of HSBC’s headquarters in Singapore.
Let me warmly welcome Noel and the visiting group executive committee members to Singapore.
HSBC has a very rich history. First established in 1865, the bank is only a few decades younger than modern Singapore.
The bank was started primarily to finance the burgeoning international trade between Asia and Europe. Much of this passed through Singapore, which was at that time a British colony and a busy entrepot node.
From very early on, Singapore had been your bank’s partner. In turn, HSBC contributed to Singapore’s economic development, serving as the link between customers across many ports.
HSBC played an important role in financing the reconstruction of Singapore after the Second World War. By then, the bank handled almost 35% of Singapore’s foreign and trade exchange business.
Since Independence, our financial sector has grown significantly. Global banks like HSBC anchored themselves in Singapore, supporting multiple generations of businesses and entrepreneurs here and in the region.
Today, Singapore’s financial sector makes up more than 14% of our GDP and is projected to grow at 4 to 5% per year in the next few years, creating three to four thousand net jobs on average each year.
Over the decades, Singapore has evolved into a Global-Asia node – providing a gateway for the world into Asia, and a window for Southeast Asia to the world.
Likewise, HSBC has become a Global-Asia bank. You are now one of the largest banks in the world.
While Asia and Europe remain your largest markets, you are also operating in the Americas, the Middle East, and North Africa.
What is remarkable when I recount the history of HSBC is how you have continued to reinvent yourself and innovate.
HSBC and Singapore are about the same age. The same age is fleeting for a nation, but venerable for a company.
During this period, the global economy has changed dramatically – through booms and busts, through upheavals and wars.
And in the decades between the end of the Second World War and the COVID-19 pandemic, globalisation has led to a more than 300-fold increase in world exports.
HSBC has continued to renew itself, stay relevant to your customers, and grow.
You also continue to ride the waves of technological advancements – from the Second Industrial Revolution, which started soon after you were founded, to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which we are now in.
Today, FinTech portends to disrupt traditional banking. And the range of possibilities were on full display at the recently concluded Singapore Fintech Festival, which HSBC actively took part in.
While new technology will disrupt existing business models, whether start-ups will disrupt banking incumbents will depend very much on how nimble our banks are.
At the same time, sustainability has come to the fore of banking. The climate crisis is now at burning point, and finance can play a critical role in mobilizing the green recovery.
HSBC is taking major steps to become an all-digital global bank, with investments in technology and digitalization a key strategic priority.
Last year, HSBC got more than one-billion logins a year from your global customers, and this is a result of your commitment to digital transformation.
You continue to develop and deploy innovative solutions to make digital banking easier, faster, and more secure.
HSBC has also continued to invest in Singapore to meet your customers’ needs for banking, capital markets, wealth and asset management, insurance, and advisory services.
Your investment in digital transformation and capabilities has opened new opportunities for Singapore companies as they expand overseas.
On the green front, HSBC has been a global thought leader for sustainability and accelerating the net-zero transition, especially in Asia.
HSBC introduced the first green loan to SMEs in Singapore in 2020. You are also a founding partner of Singapore Green Finance Centre, a first-of-its-kind Centre of Excellence dedicated to Singapore and Asia-focused green finance research and talent development.
HSBC’s milestone partnership with Temasek to launch Pentagreen Capital, a sustainable infrastructure debt-financing platform, will catalyse the development of sustainable infrastructure in Asia.
We appreciate HSBC’s contribution to Singapore’s work in developing innovative green solutions, building capacity and skills, and enhancing environmental risk management practices.
Your new office here reflects your growth and a new chapter to your presence in Singapore.
To support your expanding business in Singapore, HSBC has increased your staff headcount by 16% in the last few years, with a workforce that is almost 4,000-strong.
You have not only grown your workforce here, you have also put great emphasis on nurturing your people and providing them with global experience.
I am glad that you have continued to nurture and upskills your workers so that they can take on the new roles created by this wave of change.
Of note, there are currently over 200 Singaporeans working for HSBC overseas, including some in senior regional appointments.
Singaporean senior executives who have returned are also holding senior roles here. One of them is your Singapore CEO Wong Kee Joo, who spent most of his HSBC career overseas – in China, Thailand, and Hong Kong.
Global mobility is critical for every multinational workforce. I hope you will continue to groom more global-ready talent, including Singaporeans.
With over 130,000 square feet of space in the seven highest floors of MBFC Tower 2, HSBC is in the heart of Marina Bay’s business and financial downtown.
Your employees will perhaps be more inspired now that they get to enjoy this great view. I hope this vantage point will inspire more of them to look further and venture abroad, and to lead a more well-rounded life.
The growth of HSBC here should not only be measured in economic terms. HSBC is also a significant contributor to our community.
For over 29 years, HSBC has supported the National Youth Achievement Award, for which I am the patron. Kee Joo is now on the Advisory Board, as was Tony Cripps, Guy Harvey-Samuel and Alex Hunsgate who came before him. HSBC has also funded a NYAA-led project that promotes sustainability in SMEs in partnership with ITE students.
HSBC has supported many programmes for the less privileged in partnership with the National Council of Social Service and Community Chest, and donated $750,000 to help local COVID-19 relief efforts early in the crisis.
You have also been working with NParks to protect and conserve nature in Singapore for more than 30 years. In 2020, HSBC sponsored the construction of a nursery at Dairy Farm Nature Park to help improve habitats for native biodiversity. HSBC also supports conservation programmes at the popular TreeTop Walk.
More broadly, HSBC is also very closely associated with Singapore’s aviation hub as every visitor is greeted on arrival at Changi Airport with HSBC’s classic Hexagon logo and delighted by the HSBC Rain Vortex at Jewel Changi Airport, which was inspired by the tropical rains in Singapore.
Let me conclude. HSBC is one of the oldest banks here, with a history that is almost as long as that of Singapore.
What is remarkable is how the bank has continued to innovate and remain relevant even as the global economy underwent sweeping changes. And you continue to ride the latest tech waves of digital and green.
This new office is a milestone in your growth journey in Singapore. As you expand your workforce here, I hope you will continue to place great emphasis on developing your people and nurturing the next generation of global talent.
But as importantly, you have continued to contribute to our community as you grow. HSBC is not just an economic partner, but also an important community contributor.
Let me once again congratulate you on the opening of your Singapore headquarters in MBFC. I look forward to HSBC playing a bigger role in Singapore and in the region in the years ahead.
Thank you and congratulations.
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