Our history

Connecting customers to opportunities since 1865

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.

History timeline

Learn how a local Hong Kong bank became one of the world’s largest financial services organisations.

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
Shanghai building sketch

Gallery

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

Archives

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

Key moments in our history

The opening of China

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

Local staff, local knowledge

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

News and insight

Global transactions: the next frontier

HSBC’s Diane S Reyes explains how improvements in payments technology are benefiting businesses.

Green finance in the slow lane

The world is far short of where it needs to be on sustainable investment, says HSBC’s Daniel Klier.

Pumping up the global economy

Fiscal as well as monetary stimulus is needed to revive slowing growth, says Janet Henry, Global Chief Economist, HSBC.