The world is on the cusp of a quantum revolution and the impact of what quantum computing can bring, particularly to financial services, is enormous.

Currently, there is a lot of debate around exactly when this might happen – some see quantum as a far-off dream, but the technology is evolving at a tremendous pace.

When experts and organisations can demonstrate a commercially useful quantum advantage, and people can relate to something meaningful that will impact them or their business, I think we’ll see this huge shift.

People will start to embrace the idea as they have with artificial intelligence (AI) and generative AI, such as ChatGPT, more recently. I think quantum computing’s ‘ChatGPT moment’ will come sooner than many anticipate.

Quantum impact

Quantum computing will have a huge commercial and customer impact as we’ll be able to calculate things we can’t today.

McKinsey estimates(opens in new window)(opens in new window) (opens in new window) that by 2035 the value at stake for financial services could be up to US$700 billion. This is because the types of problems a quantum computer can solve are closely matched to the types of models we run in the bank every day. Examples include machine learning for fraud detection, financial simulation models for risk and portfolio optimisation.

How quantum computers work

<p>The computers we use now are built on binary digits that store information as a series of 0s and 1s &ndash; called bits. </p> <p>Quantum computers are built of quantum bits, or qubits. These can be simultaneously 0 and 1, enabling them to carry out more calculations, more quickly.</p>

On the flipside, the malicious use of quantum computing also poses a threat. In the next 10-20 years we’re expecting this technology to break through the encryption currently used across the banking industry – but this could happen earlier.

It’s not just a case of waiting for quantum computers to arrive. We must prepare for the opportunities but also address the security threat. We absolutely have to start looking at both now.

Taking action

The threat to cybersecurity that quantum computers pose will be a problem for everyone, but it’s particularly a problem for financial services where the business model is predicated on protecting and processing billions of transactions worth trillions of dollars a year.

To protect ourselves we are exploring two technologies immune to the attacks by quantum computers: Post-Quantum Cryptography – which is math based – and Quantum Communications – which is physics based.

How QKD works

<p>QKD uses quantum physics to deliver secret keys between parties that can then be used to encrypt and decrypt sensitive data. They are safe from eavesdroppers or cyberattacks by quantum computers.</p>

We were the first bank to join BT and Toshiba’s pioneering quantum-secured metro network(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window)(opens in new window) (opens in new window).

Using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), the network connects our global headquarters at 8CS in London to our data centre in Berkshire, UK.

In addition, earlier this year, in a world-first trial, we became the first bank to pioneer quantum protection for AI-powered foreign exchange trading.

HSBC has the opportunity to be one of the first movers in financial services to embrace this technology and prepare, in a safe and secure way, for the future quantum economy.