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  • Reported profit before tax US$20.6bn, down 6% on 2011, including US$5.2bn of adverse fair value movements on own debt;
  • Underlying1 profit before tax US$16.4bn, up 18% on 2011;
  • Core tier 1 capital ratio 12.3%, up from 10.1% in December 2011;
  • Estimated Basel III end point common equity tier 1 ratio ('CET1') 10.3% post-2013 management actions (9.0% at end 2012), providing strong capacity for organic growth;
  • Dividends declared in respect of 2012 US$0.45 per ordinary share, up 10% on 2011, with a fourth interim dividend for 2012 of US$0.18 per ordinary share. Total dividends US$8.3bn;
  • First three interim dividends for 2013 planned to be US$0.10 per ordinary share, up 11%;
  • Continued to execute our strategy to grow, simplify and restructure the Group;
  • Record year in Commercial Banking with reported profit before tax of US$8.5bn, up 7%;
  • Underlying revenues for the Group US$63.5bn, up 7%; Global Banking and Markets US$18.2bn, up 10%; Commercial Banking US$15.9bn, up 8%; Retail Banking and Wealth Management US$27.7bn, up 6%; More than half of the Group's underlying revenue from faster-growing regions;
  • Announced disposal/closure of 26 businesses and non-core investments in 2012, 4 in 2013, 47 since beginning of 2011;
  • Underlying cost growth of 11% to US$41.9bn included notable items of US$5.7bn (up from US$2.2bn in 2011) and investment in growth and strengthened compliance;
  • Notable items included US$1.9bn of fines and penalties paid as part of the settlement with US authorities and the FSA, and additional provisions of US$1.4bn in respect of UK customer redress in 2012;
  • Generated further sustainable cost savings of US$2.0bn, giving an annualised total of US$3.6bn. This surpasses our cumulative target of US$2.5bn to US$3.5bn of sustainable savings since 2011;
  • Return on average ordinary shareholders' equity 8.4%, down from 10.9% in 2011, driven by adverse fair value movements on own debt, a higher tax charge and a much stronger equity base;
  • Earnings per share US$0.74, down 20% on 2011; and
  • Pro-forma post-tax profits allocation 60% was retained, 29% declared in dividends (net of scrip) in respect of the year and 11% in respect of variable pay. Variable pay down from 15% in 2011.

1We use underlying performance when monitoring progress against operating plans and past results because we believe that this basis more appropriately reflects operating performance. Underlying measures exclude the impact of fair value movements on own debt attributable to credit spread, foreign currency translation differences and disposals and acquisitions, as well as the operating results for the acquired or disposed business from all periods presented. They do not exclude notable items.

Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive said:

"HSBC made significant progress in 2012. First and foremost, we grew our business. We increased revenues, performed well in most faster-growing markets and enjoyed a record year in Commercial Banking. We've made the business easier to manage and control by disposing of non-core businesses and surpassed our sustainable savings target. We also agreed a settlement with the US and UK authorities in respect of our past anti-money laundering and sanctions failings. Based on our current understanding of the capital rules we are extremely well-placed with regard to Basel III compliance, re-establishing our position as one of the best capitalised banks in the world. This provides a firm base on which to keep growing the business organically and allows us to increase dividends to US$8.3bn."

Statement by Douglas Flint, Group Chairman

2012 was a year of considerable progress in delivering on the strategic priorities which the Board has tasked management to address. Our decision to focus on reshaping the Group through targeted disposals and closures and internal reorganisation is paying dividends. It is bringing greater clarity and focus and is delivering sustainable cost savings while allowing incremental investment to be available and directed towards the areas of greatest opportunity.

This progress is all the more notable given that during 2012, the banking sector, including HSBC, faced continuing and in many ways unprecedented challenges. Banking has been given a huge wake-up call and we are determined to play our part in restoring its reputation and thereby regaining society's trust. Thus our restructuring agenda is not only justified economically but is helping the Group shape its response to the media, the regulatory and political challenges, and societal expectations which, simply put, all revolve around restoring the trust of all stakeholders. From depositors to investors, regulators to employees, public policy makers to consumer lobbyists we need to ensure the business model of banking is fair, transparent, sustainable and meeting its core objective of serving society.

Never has it been more important to put the customer first and provide the means and support to help them fulfil their financial aspirations and ambitions. That is our prime purpose and one of which we should never lose sight.

Over the last two years the Board was exercised greatly by the major US regulatory and law enforcement investigations we faced. I covered the background to these investigations, settlement of which we reached in December, in our Interim Report.

Management is now delivering the required enhancements to our control framework and on top of this we have significantly augmented the Board's oversight and governance capabilities. This is dealt with in more detail below.

Encouragingly, there is now growing external recognition of the progress being made in delivering against our stated strategic priorities. This, together with our overweight exposure to the world's more attractive economies, contributed to a total shareholder return of 39% over the year – 7% from dividends paid and 32% from share price appreciation. Over the course of the year the market capitalisation of HSBC grew by US$58bn from US$136bn to US$194bn, returning shareholders once again to the position where their company is worth more than its contributed capital. We remained among the highest dividend payers in the FTSE 100, a performance which we know is of great importance to our shareholders.

The cover to this year's Annual Report again illustrates our strategy of connecting customers and markets. The scene depicted is the cargo terminal at Hong Kong International Airport, which has been ranked as the busiest airport for international air cargo since 1996. Today the airport's trade throughput represents over one third of Hong Kong's external trade. HSBC's connection with trade financing and trade services through Hong Kong goes back to our earliest days and remains one of our core strengths. Projections of trade growth in Asia and Hong Kong's role therein reinforce our investment focus in this area.

Key performance indicators

Metric 2012* 2011* Target/
Return on average ordinary shareholders' equity (%) 8.4 10.9 12 - 15
Cost efficiency ratio (%) 62.8 57.5 48-52
Earnings per share (US$) 0.74 0.92 -
Core tier 1 ratio (%) 12.5 10.1 9.5-10.5
Basel III CET1 ratio post-management actions 10.3 - 9.5-10.5

Performance in 2012

There was much to be positive about in HSBC's performance in 2012. The majority of our core businesses in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, continued to perform well, achieving good underlying revenue growth in the year. Increased market confidence around eurozone recovery contributed to a significant turnaround in Global Banking and Markets results in Europe. Targeted disposals and the continuing run-off from our exit portfolios in the United States, together with evidence of recovery in many housing areas were reflected in significantly lower US loan impairment charges.

Progress in managing costs to reflect a lower economic growth environment in developed markets was encouraging. Offsetting these positive factors, credit demand remained muted throughout Europe, low interest rates continued to constrain the value of our liquid balance sheet and customer redress costs continued to weigh heavily in the UK.

The Group Chief Executive's Business Review covers financial performance and progress on strategy delivery in more detail.

Reported results include the benefit of profits arising from the significant disposals made in the year as well as bearing the burden of the fines and penalties levied as part of the settlement with US regulatory and law enforcement agencies and increased customer redress provisions in the UK. When the Board assesses management performance as part of reward measurement, these disposal gains are eliminated but the legal settlement and customer redress costs are not.

Looking through the reported results to underlying financial performance, the Board viewed positively the 2012 outcome.

Although earnings per share of US$0.74 were 20% lower than 2011, this largely reflected a US$9.1bn negative swing in the fair value of our own debt as credit spreads tightened, together with a higher tax rate.

With the Group's capital position strengthened from retained profits and from capital released from the divestments made in the year, the Board has approved a 29% increase in the final dividend in respect of the year to US$0.18 per share, US$0.04 higher than the final dividend in respect of 2011. Total dividends in respect of 2012 of US$8.3bn, amounted to US$0.45 per share, US$0.9bn higher than in 2011. The Board also intends to increase the quarterly dividends in respect of the first three quarters of 2013 by US$0.01 per share to US$0.10 per share.

Shareholders' equity at the end of 2012 stood at US$175bn, US$17bn or some 10 % higher than at the beginning of the year. The core tier 1 capital ratio strengthened from 10.1% to 12.3% and the Group remains on track to deliver compliance with the more onerous Basel III requirements in the accelerated timetable being sought by UK regulators.

During 2012, the UK government increased the rate of levy applied on the global balance sheets of UK domiciled banks. The cost to HSBC of the revised levy for the current year was US$571m of which US$295m related to non-UK banking activity. The 2012 levy, which is not tax deductible, is the equivalent of US$0.03 per ordinary share and, as indicated last year, would otherwise have been available for distribution to shareholders or used to strengthen the capital base further.

Progress on regulatory reform

2012 was a further year of progress in delivering key elements of the regulatory reform agenda mandated by the G20 in response to the financial crisis. After a long consultation period, the proposed Liquidity Coverage Ratio within the Basel III framework was recalibrated to better match industry experience, and so strengthen bank liquidity without unnecessarily constraining credit formation.

The list of banks to be designated as globally significant was announced and, as expected, HSBC was one of four placed in the highest category. Good progress was made on clarifying the possible approaches to resolving the failure of a bank with operations in multiple jurisdictions. One approach was directly applicable to the subsidiarised model favoured by HSBC.

On structural reform of banking entities, the Liikanen Group in Europe produced its report for consideration while draft alternatives have been proposed in France and Germany. In the UK, the Government substantially accepted the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Banking in a policy paper and a draft Financial Services (Banking Reform) Bill is expected to be approved in the first half of 2013. Thereafter, the government has signalled its intention to pass secondary legislation by the end of this parliament in 2015, with final implementation of the new regime by 2019.

The key structural change being legislated remains the separation of certain banking activities for personal and small business customers into a ring-fenced bank with its own financial and governance arrangements. The recently appointed Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards in the UK has reviewed the proposed legislation and inter alia recommended strengthening the ring fence by empowering regulators to force full separation in the event of attempts to frustrate the objectives of the ring fence.

Ongoing work remains extensive. Major areas of policy development covering augmenting loss absorbency through bailing-in certain categories of creditor, addressing the systemic impact of central clearing counterparties, establishing a banking union within the eurozone and revisiting the risk weighting of assets to enhance transparency and consistency, are among the most important.

Geographical distribution of results*

Year ended 31 December
  2012 2011
  US$m % US$m %
Europe (3,414) (16.5) 4,671 21.3
Hong Kong 7,582 36.7 5,823 26.6
Rest of Asia-Pacific 10,448 50.6 7,471 34.2
Middle East and North Africa 1,350 6.5 1,492 6.8
North America 2,299 11.1 100 0.5
Latin America 2,384 11.6 2,315 10.6
Profit before tax 20,649 100.0 21,872 100.0
Tax expense (5,315)   (3,928)  
Profit for the year 15,334   17,944  
Profit attributable to shareholders of the parent company 14,027   16,797  
Profit attributable to non-controlling interests 1,307   1,147  

On top of this, the UK Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards is currently examining all aspects of conduct, behaviour and culture with a view to making recommendations designed to restore trust and confidence in banks.

We are committed to working constructively with public policy makers and our regulators to give effect to these proposals. We note, however, two areas of concern.

First, it is perplexing that, after the great international effort invested in the G20 programme of sound and consistent global financial regulation, and the extent of reform currently underway, an increasing number of countries now appear to be acting unilaterally, thereby putting globally consistent regulation at risk of fragmentation and 'balkanising' the capital and liquidity resources of firms.

Second, we believe the sheer scale and timescale of the reform programme is hampering investors' line of sight to the long-term returns available.

Resolving these two issues, which will require inter-governmental direction and co-operation, would contribute to enhancing the ability of the industry to support the economic growth agenda now being prioritised in most parts of the world.

Enforcing global standards

The Board is determined to adopt and enforce the highest behavioural and compliance standards in HSBC. For well documented reasons, the last two years have been extremely damaging to HSBC's reputation and to our perception of ourselves. We faced serious failings both in the application of our standards and in our ability to identify, and so prevent, misuse and abuse of the financial system through our networks. Our strategy is entirely configured to eliminate the possibility of this happening again.

We have apologised unreservedly to all our stakeholders and have paid huge penalties both in monetary cost and reputational damage. More important than apologies, however, are the steps being taken to prevent recurrence. Management under Stuart Gulliver, the Group Chief Executive, is leading the work to simplify business and so reinforce risk management and control.

Our success in meeting our objectives will be subject to independent validation not simply through ongoing regulatory review but additionally through the appointment of an independent Monitor who will report to both UK and US authorities. We welcome the additional rigour this will bring to the process of upgrading and enforcing our global standards.

To reinforce the Board's ability to exercise rigorous governance over these endeavours, we announced the creation of a new Board committee, the Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee on 30 January 2013. This committee will provide governance, oversight and policy guidance over the framework of controls and procedures designed to identify areas where HSBC may become exposed and, through that exposure, expose the financial system more broadly to financial crime or system abuse.

Five subject matter experts drawn from the highest levels of public service will support the committee. Their expertise includes the combating of organised crime, terrorist financing, narcotics trafficking, tax evasion and money laundering as well as expertise in intelligence gathering and international payments systems. They will provide invaluable guidance and advice, and most importantly challenge, as we strengthen our capabilities and enforce the highest standards. Further details of the background and experience of these individuals are contained in the Directors' Report. Recognising the need to augment the Board's own experience and expertise we have also added specialist expertise at Board level.

Board changes

At the end of 2012 we said farewell to Narayana Murthy, who stepped down from the Board after serving with distinction for five years. Narayana, as co-founder and long-term CEO of Infosys, brought to the Board exceptional expertise in technology, operational efficiency and outsourcing matters as well as an in-depth knowledge of India and of international business through his experience on many multinational and educational boards. On behalf of the Board and shareholders I want to record our appreciation and gratitude for his contribution to HSBC.

We welcome two new directors to the Board.

Renato Fassbind joined the Board on 1 January and will serve on the Audit and Remuneration Committees. Renato brings to the Board considerable international business and financial expertise from a distinguished career in industrial, service and financial companies. He is currently Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board and a member of the audit and the compensation committees of Swiss Reinsurance Company, a member of the Supervisory Board and audit committee of Kühne + Nagel International AG and a member of the Supervisory Board of the Swiss Federal Audit Oversight Authority.

Renato stepped down as Chief Financial Officer and a member of the executive board of Credit Suisse Group in September 2010, having served in that role since 2004.

Jim Comey joins the Board today and will serve on the newly created Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee. Jim brings to the Board outstanding governance experience from both the private and public sectors. In his private sector roles he acted as General Counsel to leading international businesses and in public life served at the apex of law enforcement in the United States. Most recently, within the private sector, Jim Comey served as General Counsel of Bridgewater Associates, LP and prior to that as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of the Lockheed Martin Corporation. In public life, from 2003 to 2005, he served as US Deputy Attorney General, where he was responsible for supervising the operations of the Department of Justice, and chaired the President's Corporate Fraud Task Force. From 2002 to 2003, he served as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Fuller details of their background and experience are set out in the Directors' Report.

Social contribution

Much is currently being written and debated about the role banks should play in society. In large part, this reflects the fact that the economic success that underpins a harmonious society depends upon sustainable financing, confidence and trust in the financial system. That trust is founded upon the broader role that banks play in their local communities.

Within HSBC, many of my colleagues make tremendous personal contributions to their communities and I want to take this opportunity to pay tribute to them. HSBC's outreach in terms of community investment is primarily in the areas of education and the environment and, in 2012, in financial terms it amounted to some US$120m.

In 2012, we extended our commitment to support disadvantaged and vulnerable young people who are neither in education, employment nor training. We support local and international charities working in this area, and also run our own staff-driven 'Future First' programme, which helps street children, children in care and orphans to access education. Initiatives under this programme are developed and supported by HSBC colleagues around the world and, in 2012, 2,717 members of staff volunteered to support the programme.

Importantly in all our community work we increasingly look to involve our staff to reinforce our links with the communities we serve. In 2012, for example, 114,982 HSBC colleagues spent 724,650 hours in volunteer activity.

We also launched the HSBC Water Programme last year. This is a five-year, US$100m commitment to support Water Aid, WWF and Earthwatch to deliver freshwater and sanitation to poor rural communities in Asia and Africa, educate local communities on sustainable water management in five major river basins around the world, and involve more than 7,500 HSBC staff with local conservation partners to address urban water management issues and learn to carry out scientific water research tasks.

Looking ahead

It is often said that people come together in adversity, learning lessons from the past and each other to create the bonds that ensure a better future. I believe that this has happened within HSBC. The last year has been a difficult one for all at HSBC as we addressed the restructuring of the firm against a lower-growth economic backdrop and with legacy issues and regulatory challenges imposing a further set of imperatives. Our 270,000 staff have had to face up to bewildering descriptions of HSBC that contrasted with the way they conduct their relationships with the firm's customers and clients.

What has been inspirational is how everyone has pulled together, focused on the future and committed to do all and everything necessary to restore a reputation that we all believe can be positively distinctive. On behalf of the Board, I want to thank all our employees for that commitment and their loyal support.

I also want to thank our clients and customers, our shareholders, our regulators and those in government who believe, as we do, that we will meet the commitments we have made to allow us better to serve the communities who entrust their financial needs to HSBC.

Distribution of results by global business*

Year ended 31 December
  2011 2010
  US$m % US$m %
Retail Banking and Wealth Management 9,575 46.4 4,270 19.6
Commercial Banking 8,535 41.3 7,947 36.3
Global Banking and Markets 8,520 41.3 7,049 32.2
Global Private Banking 1,009 4.9 944 4.3
Other (6,990) (33.9) 1,662 7.6
Profit before tax 20,649 100.0 21,872 100.0

Review by Stuart Gulliver, Group Chief Executive

HSBC made significant progress in 2012 despite a challenging operating environment characterised by low economic growth and a changing regulatory landscape. We continued to pursue the strategy outlined in May 2011, announcing the sale or closure of 26 businesses or non-core investments, surpassing our sustainable savings target and recording underlying revenue growth in the majority of our faster-growing regions. We also reached agreement with the US authorities and the FSA in relation to past inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanction laws. Although reported pre-tax profit fell by 6% to US$20.6bn in 2012, underlying profit, which includes the impact of fines and penalties and UK customer redress provisions totalling US$4.3bn, grew by 18%. This was primarily due to revenue growth, notably in Global Banking and Markets and Commercial Banking, and lower loan impairment charges in North America. We regard this as a good performance.

Our strategy is founded on a clear sense of purpose – to be where the growth is, connecting customers to opportunities and enabling businesses to thrive, economies to prosper and individuals to realise their ambitions. This has given us clear parameters around the way that we behave and conduct business and where and how we compete.

Since 2011, we have created a consistent global structure with strong governance, consisting of four global businesses and 11 global functions. In 2012, we continued to execute our strategic priorities to grow, restructure and simplify HSBC.

We grew our business in 2012, achieving underlying revenue growth in most of our priority markets. The growth in these markets was a factor in generating a record reported profit before tax in Commercial Banking as we maintained our position as the world's largest global trade finance bank, as reported in the Oliver Wyman Global Transaction Banking Survey 2012. The collaboration between Commercial Banking and Global Banking and Markets delivered incremental gross revenues of over US$0.1bn in 2012. Wealth Management achieved more than US$0.5bn of additional revenues, although further progress is required to achieve our strategic goals.

The restructuring of the US business progressed in 2012 as we continued to run off the Consumer and Mortgage Lending portfolio, resulting in a US$14bn reduction in the value of average risk-weighted assets and a reduced loss before tax of US$3.1bn, reflecting improved loan impairment charges. Following our agreement with the US authorities and the FSA in December 2012, we are adopting global standards as part of our effort to raise our practices to an industry-leading level. This is part of our wholehearted commitment to protect the integrity of the organisation and the financial system, and to do our part to fight financial crime.

We further simplified the Group structure in 2012, bringing the total number of announced disposals and closures of non-strategic businesses or non-core investments to 47 since the beginning of 2011, including four in 2013.

During 2012, we completed the disposal of the Card and Retail Services business and the upstate New York branches in the United States, and the sale or closure of our retail businesses in Thailand, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, as well as the full service retail brokerage businesses in Canada. Additionally we announced the sale of our operations in Colombia, Peru, Uruguay and Paraguay.

Following completion of all the announced transactions we will have completed the refocus of our Retail Banking and Wealth Management ('RBWM') presence to our 22 home and priority markets, which represented 98% of the RBWM, excluding US CRS and the US run-off portfolio, profit before tax in 2012, plus a limited number of important network and smaller markets.

Notably, on top of the above, we reached agreement in December 2012 to sell our stake in Ping An for an aggregate cash consideration, the equivalent of US$9.4bn. This transaction completed in two tranches, in December 2012 and February 2013, generating a profit of US$3.0bn. In 2012 our share of Ping An's earnings was US$0.8bn.

We also made progress in eliminating unnecessary organisational layers and streamlining various processes, achieving an additional US$2.0bn in sustainable cost savings. This takes our total annualised savings to US$3.6bn, surpassing our cumulative target of US$2.5bn to US$3.5bn of sustainable savings since 2011. Taken together, these changes have made HSBC much easier to manage and control.

Although we made some good progress in 2012, the cost efficiency ratio at 62.8% and ROE at 8.4% were outside our target ranges. These were both affected by UK customer redress provisions, as well as payments we were required to make as part of the settlement of the investigations noted above.

Implementing our strategy can add significant value to HSBC. We are on the right track and remain fully committed to achieving our ambition of being the world's leading international bank.

We are investing to build this distinctive international competitive position.

In Retail Banking and Wealth Management, we accelerated the transformation of the Wealth Management business in HSBC with infrastructure investment to improve customer experience and so drive growth. Technology solutions improved the customer offering in foreign exchange services and we introduced enhanced risk profiling and strategic financial planning tools.

In Commercial Banking we maintained our investment in the faster-growing regions in support of the strong network that helps connect customers with both developed and developing markets as they expand internationally. A great deal of attention is being devoted to the increasing internationalisation of the renminbi.

During 2012, we were the first bank to settle cross-border renminbi trade across six continents with capabilities in over 50 countries, offering a competitive advantage to our customers as the renminbi positions to be a major global trade and investment currency. We have expanded our global network of dedicated China desks to cover our top markets, representing about half of the world's GDP. These are staffed by Mandarin-speaking experts who support mainland Chinese businesses to identify new opportunities to expand overseas.

In Global Banking and Markets, we invested in selective recruitment to support key strategic markets. We continued the successful build-out of our equities and e-FX platforms to broaden our product offerings. In Hong Kong we led the market in Hong Kong dollar bond issuance and were the leading bookrunner for high yield bonds in Asia, excluding Japan. We now also rank in the top five of equities brokers in Hong Kong. We reinforced our leading position in the renminbi market in 2012, supporting a number of significant client transactions and, as an entity, issuing the first international renminbi bond outside Chinese sovereign territory. Reflecting our capabilities in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific, HSBC was recognised as the 'Best Global Emerging Markets Debt House' at the 2012 Euromoney Awards for Excellence and was also recognised as 'RMB House of the Year' at the 2012 Asia Risk Awards.

I would like to thank all of our employees for their dedication and endurance throughout a difficult year for the bank. They have shown a real sense of passion, pride and duty in the face of critical and often deeply embarrassing media headlines and I too am very grateful for their efforts.

Group performance headlines

  • Reported profit before tax was US$20.6bn, US$1.2bn lower than in 2011, including US$5.2bn of adverse movements in the fair value of our own debt attributable to credit spreads compared with favourable movements of US$3.9bn in 2011. This variance of US$9.1bn was partially offset by an increase of US$7.5bn in respect of gains from the disposal of businesses, notably from the sale of the US Card and Retail Services business and the agreement to sell our stake in Ping An.
  • Underlying profit before tax was US$16.4bn, up US$2.5bn, mainly due to higher revenues and lower loan impairment charges and other credit risk provisions. These factors were partially offset by an increase in operating expenses, primarily reflecting the settlement of the investigations into past inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanction laws and increased provisions for UK customer redress programmes.
  • Underlying revenues rose by 7%, led by Global Banking and Markets where the majority of our businesses grew, notably Credit and Rates in Europe, as spreads tightened and investor sentiment improved following stimuli by central banks globally. Commercial Banking also recorded revenue growth as customer loans and advances increased in all regions, with over half of this growth coming from our faster-growing regions of Hong Kong, Rest of Asia-Pacific and Latin America, driven by higher trade-related lending. Customer deposits also rose as we continued to attract deposits through Payments and Cash Management products. In addition, Retail Banking and Wealth Management experienced revenue growth across all faster-growing regions, in particular Hong Kong and Latin America. These factors were partially offset by lower revenue in Global Private Banking, as we focused on repositioning our business model and target client base.
  • We achieved growth in reported loans and advances to customers of more than US$57bn during the year, notably in residential mortgages and term and trade-related lending. Customer deposits increased by over US$86bn, allowing us to maintain a strong ratio of customer advances to customer accounts of 74.4%.
  • Underlying costs were US$4.3bn higher than in 2011 including payments of US$1.9bn made as part of the settlement of the investigations into past inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, additional provisions in respect of UK customer redress programmes of US$1.4bn, and a credit in 2011 of US$0.6bn relating to defined benefit pension obligations in the UK which did not recur. Operating expenses also increased due to inflationary pressures, for example, on wages and salaries, in certain of our Latin American and Asian markets. Other increases arose from investment in strategic initiatives including certain business expansion projects, enhanced processes and technology capabilities, and increased investment in regulatory and compliance infrastructure primarily in the US.
  • The reported cost efficiency ratio deteriorated from 57.5% to 62.8% and from 63.4% to 66.0% on an underlying basis, as a result of higher notable cost items, as described above.
  • Return on equity was 8.4%, down from 10.9% in 2011, primarily reflecting the adverse movement in fair value of own debt attributable to movements in credit spreads, a higher tax charge and higher average shareholders' equity. Similarly, the Group's pre-tax return on average risk-weighted assets ('RoRWA') for 2012 was 1.8% or 1.5% on an underlying basis. Adjusting for the negative returns on US consumer finance business and legacy credit in Global Banking and Markets, the remainder of the Group achieved a RoRWA of 1.9% in 2012 and 2.1% in 2011.
  • The core tier 1 ratio increased during the year from 10.1% at the end of 2011 to 12.3%. This increase was driven by capital generation and a reduction in risk-weighted assets following business disposals.
  • The Basel III capital rules began their staged 6-10 year implementation in some parts of the world in January 2013. Nevertheless, the FSA has set our 2013 capital target calculation on a Basel III end point basis. This effectively accelerates our implementation of Basel III by several years relative to European regulations and other global banks. Consistent with this, we now operate to an internal capital target set on a Basel III end point basis of 9.5%-10.5%.
  • Profit attributable to ordinary shareholders was US$13.5bn, of which US$8.3bn was declared in dividends in respect of the year. This compared with US$2.9bn of variable pay awarded (net of tax) to our employees for 2012.
  • Dividends per ordinary share declared in respect of 2012 were US$0.45, an increase of 10% compared with 2011, with a fourth interim dividend for 2012 of US$0.18 per ordinary share.

Global standards

As a global organisation which trades on its international connectivity, we recognise that we have a responsibility to play a part in protecting the integrity of the financial system. In order to do this effectively, in April 2012 we committed to implementing industry-leading controls to increase our ability to combat financial crime.

The highest compliance standards are being adopted and enforced across HSBC and our Compliance function has already been strengthened considerably. More than 3,500 people are now employed globally to work on compliance and compliance spending has approximately doubled since 2010 to more than US$500m. We have created and recruited externally for two new Compliance leadership roles – Global Head of Regulatory Compliance and Head of Group Financial Crime Compliance – and appointed a number of senior staff with extensive experience of handling relevant international legal and financial issues. A review of 'Know Your Customer' files is under way across the entire Group and an enhanced global sanctions policy has been devised to ensure that we do not do business with key illicit actors anywhere, in any currency. In addition, we have moved to protect HSBC from the risks inherent in bearer shares by curtailing the ability of clients using bearer share companies to open accounts or transact with HSBC.

We have also introduced a new filter, against which all existing and prospective clients and businesses are screened. This sixth filter focuses on financial crime risk. It means that where we cannot practically or economically apply the global standards to which we are committed we will stop writing business altogether or significantly restrict our activities. This policy is consistent with our commitments to adopt global standards, to simplify our business and operations, and to de-risk our business activities.

Implementing these standards will be a critical component of our work in 2013.


Whilst the operating environment for financial institutions remains difficult, our core business will continue to reap the benefit of recovering economic growth in mainland China and its positive impact on other faster-growing regions. We expect the developing economies, led by mainland China, to continue to grow briskly at 5.4%, while developed economies should see more gradual growth of 1.0%. We forecast growth of 8.6% in mainland China in 2013.

The US economy should continue its gradual recovery, with continuing quantitative easing measures supporting a recovery in the housing market, although the recovery is still not strong enough to support a sustained reduction in unemployment. We expect higher growth in Latin America in 2013, due in part to a modest recovery in Brazil. The biggest risk to the world economy remains an uncharted shock from Europe and an exacerbation of the sovereign debt crisis. We remain cautious on the outlook for Europe due to weak demand, slow growth, and political and regulatory uncertainty.

Finally, I am pleased to report that the business had a good start to the year. Our results in 2013 will include a dilution gain of US$1.2bn on our investment in Industrial Bank, following its issue of additional share capital to third parties on 7 January. There was also a US$0.6bn net gain on the completion of the sale of our shares in Ping An, which offsets the adverse fair value movement on the forward contract included within our 2012 results. On 19 February 2013 we announced the sale of our operations in Panama for US$2.1bn.

Read the full text of the news release.

*All figures are on a reported basis unless otherwise stated.