Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 11 News List

HSBC to expand presence in Japan

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HSBC Holdings Plc, Europe's biggest bank by market value, plans to open seven branches and hire 270 people in Japan by the end of next year for its personal banking operation.

"We plan to have a total of seven branches in Japan by the end of 2008," Francois Moreau, head of financial services in Japan at the London-based bank, said at a Tokyo press conference.

The number of its personal banking staff in the nation "will increase to over 400" by the year end from 130, he said.

HSBC, which earns almost half its pretax profit in Asia, is seeking to slice off a share of the US$14 trillion of financial assets held by individuals in the world's second-largest economy.

The bank will compete with Citigroup Inc, the largest overseas bank with a retail presence in Japan, which plans to double its branch network in the country within several years.

Chairman Stephen Green said on Sept. 20 that HSBC aims to open as many as 35 branches in Tokyo, Osaka and other large cities. HSBC, which handles personal wealth management for its more than 2 million customers in 35 countries, targets 6.5 million individuals in the Tokyo and Osaka regions.

On Jan. 31, the bank plans to open two branches in Tokyo to serve customers with financial assets of more than ?10 million (US$90,100), Moreau said.

It has obtained regulatory approval to open an office in Hiroo, a residential district in central Tokyo where the embassies of 12 nations are located.

The bank also plans to open an outlet in the business and entertainment district of Akasaka.

London-based HSBC will offer ordinary deposits, fixed-time deposits, foreign currency deposits, insurance products, investment trusts and home loans at the branches, Moreau said. Customers will be able to use a total of 39,000 automated-teller machines of Japan Post Bank Co and Seven Bank Ltd, he added.

HSBC, which opened its first Japanese branch in Yokohama in 1866, began offering private banking in Japan in 1996, catering to individuals with financial assets of more than ?300 million.

The nation's households have 50 percent of their assets in cash or deposits, compared with 13 percent in the US, a Bank of Japan report said in June.

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