HSBC is well known for sponsoring rugby. But the bank has a long history of playing the game too. The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Club was recognised by the Rugby Football Union in 1887. Given that the bank was founded in 1865, there has been an HSBC rugby club almost as long as HSBC.
For many years, sports like rugby were not just seen as a way of keeping fit and having fun but also an important tool in building relationships across the bank
For many years, sports like rugby were not just seen as a way of keeping fit and having fun but also an important tool in building relationships across the bank. Perhaps because of this, HSBC has had a number of talented players among its employees. Several went on to represent their national team. G H McAllan (1896) and W J Beaty (1910) played for Ireland and Martin Walter (1906) and James Hutton (1930) for Scotland. Martin Johnson, who captained England to World Cup glory in 2003, also once worked for the bank.
Some of HSBC’s rugby stars became famous for other reasons. P G Wodehouse, in the stripey socks, middle row, second from right, worked for the bank’s London office before turning his hand to writing.
The rugby squad has also been valuable to the bank for non-sporting reasons. In the early twentieth century, the bank was involved in issuing a number of loans to Japan. These were designed to help the country develop its railways, waterworks and harbours. In many cases, investors were keen to get on board. The 1905 issuance was so popular that the bank asked the rugby team to help control the scrum of would-be investors at the front door.
HSBC has long been supporting international connections in rugby, as is only fitting for a bank with its roots in trade. As far back as 1900, players from HSBC joined forces with other UK bank employees to form an all-star team. Their match against Racing Club de Paris was watched live by 6,000 spectators.
Given this heritage, it’s no surprise that HSBC remains committed to rugby at every level. HSBC’s sponsorship of the current Lions tour is the natural evolution of a long and happy love affair.