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Company history

HSBC was born from one simple idea – a local bank serving international needs. In March 1865, HSBC opened its doors for business in Hong Kong, and today we serve more than 47 million customers in 71 countries and territories.

The experiences of the past 150 years have formed the character of HSBC. A glance at our history explains why we believe in capital strength, in strict cost control and in building long-term relationships with customers. HSBC has weathered change in all forms – revolutions, economic crises, new technologies – and adapted to survive. The resulting corporate character enables HSBC to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Hong Kong harbour, Chinese artist, early 1860s

1865

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited opened in Hong Kong on 3 March 1865 and in Shanghai one month later. It was the first locally owned and locally managed bank.

Staff in Fuzhou, China, 1887

1875

By 1875 HSBC was present in seven countries across Asia, Europe and North America. It financed the export of tea and silk from China, cotton and jute from India, sugar from the Philippines and rice and silk from Vietnam.

Portrait of Thomas Jackson, around 1890

1900

By 1900, after strong growth under Chief Manager Thomas Jackson, the bank had expanded into 16 countries and was financing trade across the world. Bullion, exchange and merchant banking were important features of the bank’s business.

Chinese railway bond certificate, 1907

1910

In the early 20th century, HSBC widened the scope of its activities in Asia. It issued loans to national governments to finance modernisation and infrastructure projects such as railway building.

Staff in military uniform, First World War

1918

The First World War brought disruption and dislocation to many businesses. By the 1920s, however, Asia was beginning to prosper again as new industries developed and trade in commodities such as rubber and tin soared.

Hong Kong building, 1965

1935

The 1930s brought recession and turmoil to many markets. Nonetheless, HSBC asked architects Palmer and Turner to design a new head office in Hong Kong: “Please build us the best bank in the world.” The cutting-edge art deco building opened in 1935.

Prison camp diary of HSBC staff member Max Haymes, 1943

1941

The bank faced one of its most challenging times during the Second World War. Staff in Asia showed huge courage in the face of adversity. Many became prisoners of war. Only the London, Indian and US branches remained in full operation.

Hong Kong garment factory, around 1950

1950

At the end of the war, HSBC took on a key role in the reconstruction of the Hong Kong economy. Its support helped both established manufacturers and newcomers to grow their businesses in Hong Kong.

Persian banknote, early 20th century

1972

By the 1970s the bank had expanded through acquisition. HSBC bought Mercantile Bank and The British Bank of the Middle East in 1959. In 1972 it formed a merchant banking arm, extending its range of services.

UK cash machine, around 1975

1992

In the 1980s HSBC bought Marine Midland Bank in the US. In 1992, the newly created HSBC Holdings plc made a recommended offer for full ownership of the UK’s Midland Bank. Following the acquisition, HSBC moved its headquarters to London.

HSBC office, New York, 1999

1998

In 1998, the bank announced it would adopt a unified brand, using HSBC and the hexagon symbol everywhere it operated.

HSBC lion, London, present day

2016

As new markets blossom and flourish, HSBC continues to be where the growth is, connecting customers to opportunities. The bank enables businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping people fulfil their hopes and dreams and realise their ambitions.

150 years in videos

HSBC's 150 anniversary The opening of China

How Guy Hillier cemented HSBC’s reputation in China at the turn of the 20th century.

HSBC's 150 anniversary Local staff, local knowledge

HSBC staff from many different backgrounds have contributed to the bank’s success.

The war years

The conflicts of the 1930s and 1940s affected the lives of HSBC employees around the world.

Reinventing Hong Kong

HSBC played a key role in helping its home market to recover following World War II.

The HSBC Group: Our story The HSBC Group: Our story

How a local bank in Hong Kong grew into a global financial institution.

The HSBC Group: Our story Anniversary sculptures

HSBC has commissioned two sculptures to mark 150 years since the bank started trading.

Did you know?

  • HSBC's red and white hexagon symbol was developed from the bank's original house flag which was in turn based on the cross of St Andrew.

  • The HSBC lions are nicknamed Stephen and Stitt after senior managers from the 1920s.

  • The first business recorded in the first current account ledger is still a customer of the bank today.

  • The comic author P G Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and Wooster, spent two years working at HSBC’s London office. He was recorded as being late for work 20 times in his first year.

More about HSBC’s history

HSBC's history HSBC's history

How a local bank in Hong Kong grew into one of the world's biggest financial institutions.

HSBC's archives HSBC's archives

Our archives reflect the bank's long and eventful history. Find out what's in the collections and how to access them.

Online gallery Online gallery

View the latest display of historic photographs from our company archives.

Frequently asked questions Frequently asked questions

Learn about the founding of HSBC, the significance of the lions and the origins of our hexagon logo.