by Duncan Mavin
March 14, 2011
Just days ago HSBC Holdings PLC said earnings for 2010 doubled from a year earlier, to $13.2 billion, with Asia accounting for almost two-thirds of the profit. But Peter Wong, the bank's chief executive for Asia Pacific, is keen to stress the importance of cost control and measured growth.
"During a high-growth mode, we need to watch out for complacency, and not to grow the cost base in a very free way," says the 59-year-old Mr. Wong, whose 31-year banking career also involved stints at Citibank and Standard Chartered. "Right now, there's inflation in assets, in wages and food. So how do I make sure costs don't get out of whack?"
His cautious message echoes that of the new man in charge at HSBC globally, Stuart Gulliver, who said last month that rising costs at the bank were "unacceptable."
Still, HSBC has come out of the financial crisis in better shape than many of its competitors, and as head of the bank's Asian business, Mr. Wong is tasked with delivering rising profits in one of its fastest-growing regions. He spoke to Duncan Mavin in Hong Kong to explain how. The following interview has been edited.