HSBC has appointed Peter Wong as chairman of its fully owned subsidiary HSBC Bank China. He succeeds Vincent Cheng, who retired from this position at the end of May. HSBC has won regulatory approval for the appointment and it is effective immediately.
“China is the growth engine of the global economy and a key focus of our emerging markets strategy,” said Wong in a statement.
Of course, recent data suggests that even China might struggle with growth at the same clip it has recorded so far, as the global economy seems to be slowing on the back of woes from all corners of the world. On Saturday, Beijing officials released inflation figures that showed consumer prices rose 6.4% from the same month a year earlier, the fastest increase since June 2008. And China’s imports increased 19.3% to June from the same month a year earlier, which is an impressive number until you take into consideration that it is a sharp fall from May’s 28.4% annual increase and below analyst expectations.
Furthermore, it’s unclear if China is about to go through another non-performing loan saga. In 2009 and 2010, total credit grew by 39% and 34% of GDP respectively — and that total is just what statisticians can track; it doesn’t count loans from extended family or village lenders, which anecdotally is standard practice for the vast majority of mainlanders trying to get a leg up in the world. Loans to local governments for infrastructure projects are what many specialists are watching closely now — there could be as much as $2.1 trillion worth of loans out to local governments, which is a touch more than one-third of China’s GDP. That’s a lot to repay at the same time as maintaining the status of a growth engine for the global economy.
Even if the economy wasn’t wobbly, Wong would have big shoes to fill in stepping into Cheng’s role. Cheng worked with the HSBC group for 33 years. In 2005, he became the first ever Chinese national to hold the chairman role at Hongkong Bank — a job he took on when David Eldon retired. Before that he was vice-chairman and CEO of Hang Seng Bank, which is majority owned by HSBC, for seven years. In 2008, he was appointed a member of the National Committee of the 11th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).
Wong has more than 30 years experience within the banking industry, joining HSBC in 2005, and has held senior management roles, including deputy chairman and non-executive director of HSBC Bank China since April 2007. He was chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Banks in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2009.
Wong is currently a member of the exchange fund advisory committee of the Hong Kong monetary authority and a member of the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council. He is also president of Hong Kong’s institute of bankers and a member of the general committee for the Hong Kong general chamber of commerce.
In mainland China, Wong is a member of the 10th Hubei provincial committee of the CPPCC, an international adviser to the mayor of Tianjin and a member of the Chongqing mayor’s international economic advisory council.
HSBC was among the first foreign banks to locally incorporate its operations in China when it did so in April 2007. Local incorporation is a prerequisite for foreign lenders to take part in all local-currency businesses. HSBC now has around 100 branches across 23 cities in China.