The birth of a bank
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, helping to finance trade between Europe and Asia.
For more than 150 years we have connected customers to opportunities. We enable businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping people to realise their ambitions. Today, we serve more than 40 million customers worldwide in 65 countries and territories.
The experiences of the past century and a half 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.
The bank 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.
Read more about how a local bank in Hong Kong grew into a global financial institution in The HSBC Group: Our story (PDF 3MB).
Did you know?
HSBC has developed a number of traditions over its years in business and employed people who would later find fame in other fields. For example:
- The bank’s name is derived from the initials of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited, the founding member of HSBC
- 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 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
View the latest display of historic photographs from our company archives.
History in detail
How a local bank in Hong Kong grew into one of the world’s biggest financial institutions.
Our archives reflect the bank’s long and eventful history. Find out what's in the collections and how to access them.
The demographic divide
Ageing populations may force governments to raise retirement ages, says HSBC’s James Pomeroy.
My sabbatical story
HSBC’s Andy Russell took six months off work to travel, thanks to the bank’s sabbatical policy.
Keeping the global engine running
Slowing growth and low inflation mean central banks face tough decisions, says HSBC’s Janet Henry.