Looking back over the past 20 years or so of covering retail banking, a few advertising, marketing and CSR campaigns stick in the memory. Arguably, the most comprehensive and ambitious global marketing campaign of any bank would be HSBC’s World’s Local Bank campaign.
In terms of outreach and marketing spend, few bank marketing campaigns come close to HSBC’s long running marketing initiative.
The World’s Local Bank campaign was far more sophisticated than many gave it credit for. There was a lot more to it than the sheer weight of marketing expenditure. Clever use of comedy was in evidence, combined with the serious point that HSBC did not underestimate the importance of local knowledge.
But as HSBC exited a number of smaller non-core markets and then accelerated its global retreat by shrinking its retail banking operations in the likes of the US and Brazil and most recently, Canada, the campaign had clearly run its course.
Indeed, HSBC ended the world’s local bank campaign around six years ago and transitioned to promoting itself as the world’s leading and most respected international bank.
HSBC US unit pivots to international banking and wealth management
In the US for example, HSBC announced in May 2021 that it was repositioning its US retail business towards international banking and wealth management. The HSBC release said that it would exit its US domestic mass market retail banking business through several transactions. Specifically, it would exit all personal, advance and certain premier banking customers, those with balances below $75,000.
And it would exit all retail business banking customers, small businesses with turnover of $5m and under.
HSBC campaign targets 10 key markets
Fast forward to 2023 and HSBC is relaunching an international products and services campaign – to better support customers across borders, for a seamless cross-border experience, whether they’re moving for work, study or to live in a new location.
Ten markets are targeted: as well as the US, the relaunch includes Australia, Canada, mainland China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, UAE, UK, Channel Islands & Isle of Man.
These products and services include enabling international customers to open a new account before they arrive in their destination, without visiting a branch. Customers will be able to see all their HSBC accounts in one global view and make simple, fast and competitively priced payments.
They will be able to build a positive credit history in their new location and access financial planning tools and portfolio-based advice from HSBC in their new location. Plus, they will be able to manage their banking needs in different time zones with 24/7 support and access services with global partners beyond banking such as tax solutions and relocation support.
The HSBC international relaunch is aimed at three main customer segments: professional expats, overseas students and international investors.
That represents, says HSBC, ad addressable market of 90 million international customers in the 10 markets where HSBC’s suite of services is relaunching.
So it is ambitious and a notable initiative. Taylan Turan, Group Head of Retail Banking and Strategy, HSBC Wealth and Personal Banking tells RBI something of the thinking behind the campaign. And he explains why he believes that expats moving, for example, to the US or Canada, will be persuaded to stick with HSBC when they note that the bank has sold or is selling its local branch network.
RBI: What marketing activity is planned to promote the relaunch to target the customer segments referenced?
Yes, we are running a marketing campaign to promote our offering – aimed at international customers across ten markets with the greatest number and flows of international customers. The campaign is targeted at professional expats, overseas investors, and international students. We’re running a mix of activity: out of home, digital advertising, in branches, and colleague engagement; it also includes a refreshed customer journey across our websites, activity for customers entering and leaving the country; along with partnerships with global influencers to highlight real-life stories from people living internationally – honest perspectives on their journey living across multiple borders.
RBI: Of the 10 markets, Australia, Canada, mainland China, Channel Islands & Isle of Man, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, UAE, UK and US, which ones are you especially excited about?
I believe the power of our network is a key enabler in solving customers’ problems in a seamless manner, and each market is playing a different role. For instance, in Singapore we became the first bank to offer instant Digital International Account Opening for international customers – a journey that performs real-time digital identity verification and authentication. In terms of scale – the Non-Resident Indians (NRI) diaspora flow is very sizeable; and across both inbound Singapore and outbound India where we see many customers needing support. Our partnership with Nova Credit allows customers in Singapore and the UK to access their credit history, which is then used to improve credit and limit decisioning.”
RBI: Would you consider partnering with a local bank?
We always consider partnerships if they make strategic sense within the regulatory constraints. Our priority is to offer brilliant products, services and customer experience to our international customers to meet their needs. This mission encompasses our 40 million customers worldwide through a network that covers 62 countries and territories.
Our customer research indicates where our customers move and invest as they make their international journeys, and we’re focused on creating their banking journeys as frictionless as possible, across those corridors. Working in partnership – especially with fintech experts – is vital to ensure we offer customers best in class services. When it comes to managing their finances, customers increasingly want more immersive experiences and to be part of a trusted online ecosystem; this means personalised digital interactions with the bank, peers and third parties we recommend.
RBI: What is the attraction of the proposition for Canada?
In November 2022, HSBC Group announced an agreement to sell its 100% equity stake in HSBC Bank Canada to Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). This is subject to regulatory and governmental review and approval, the sale is expected to be completed by late 2023 At this stage, our full suite of six international products and services are available in Canada too – so a customer going to Canada can take advantage of them in the same way as the other nine corridors.