Happy New Year to you all! I hope you celebrated the start of 2013 in good spirits with family and friends. Now that we are a few days into the New Year, it's good to look ahead and think about what this year may bring us. But first, a quick look back.
2012 was quite a busy year for all of us at HSBC. We have been through a journey of challenges, victories, lessons and changes, in sometimes less than favourable circumstances. But we have also achieved a lot. I am proud to share with you our latest recognition in the areas of Retail Banking, Payments and Cash Management, Risk, Marketing, Human Resources and Corporate Sustainability. These awards recognize our efforts in strongly linking our strategy to our stakeholders' expectations.
Within our Retail Business, we have done remarkably well surpassing many of the previous records. Our strong focus and the numerous cost reduction initiatives supported the business and staff, and other cross functional teams to drive down our costs. Our Premier and Advance propositions crossed many milestones and continued to service beyond our customers expectations. We also launched HSBC Visa Signature, a credit card catering to the global traveler. Our overall cards business due it to its intrinsic value was able to onboard the highest number of cards in the last five years. All of these products and innovations were aptly supported by creative yet, value generating marketing campaigns for our customers such as 48 days of summer, redefining your expectations etc.
Commercial Banking has seen a flurry of activity during 2012. HSBC Sri Lanka become the only house to have led all of The Government of Sri Lanka's issuances in the USD bond market since 2007, having secured the fifth consecutive sovereign bond for USD1billion. The Bank also acted in the capacity of lead arranger and book runner for many other loan syndications. In keeping with the growing Chinese corporate activity in the infrastructure space, and helping local companies to connect globally and to optimise cross border business opportunities, a China desk was established with the resources of a Mandarin speaking Chinese relationship manager.
In 2012 following an HSBC Group direction, we took significant steps to increase our efficiencies and effectiveness by reducing layers of management and arriving at a flatter organizational structure through our global organization effectiveness programme. This will undoubtedly help us to serve you better, by making decisions faster and less bureaucratic.
The Bank also initiated many corporate sustainability programmes to address some of the dire needs of communities and people, with water being one of the key themes. In addition, in broadening and strengthening our presence and to help build Sri Lanka's image on the world's stage, the HSBC Galle Literary Festival and HSBC Colombo Fashion Week were sponsored by the Bank. This attracted attention and commendations from international audiences.
I am sure you have been disappointed by some of the stories you have read in the newspapers and seen on the television following the announcement of our agreements with UK and US authorities in relation to investigations regarding inadequate compliance with anti-money laundering and sanctions laws. We fully acknowledge our past shortcomings and our Group CEO has publicly apologized for them. HSBC has made many changes to build a robust compliance program and culture. Since 2010, we have been in close contact with U.S. regulatory authorities to ensure that they are aware of the steps we have taken to improve the way we manage risk and ensure compliance.
Courageous integrity, is a wake-up call and we will ensure to act with due skill, care and diligence at all times in rebuilding our brand. Thank you for your support at this difficult time for HSBC.
Whilst looking back at our past successes it is important to move forward as decisively and swiftly as we can in 2013 and that will only be possible with our continued dedication and teamwork. As in the past, we will continue to enable businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping our customers fulfill their hopes, dreams and ambitions.
Our priorities this year will be to further develop our Premier and Advance brands, and maintain our market leadership in credit cards; grow our corporate lending portfolio and project finance infrastructure facilities to support the aspirations of the country's development goals; and continue to give back to the communities we serve through our corporate sustainability activities which will focus on education and the environment - especially water related themes.
The past year has been very difficult for the banking industry in general and HSBC in particular, but I would like to thank you all for your significant support and loyalty during these challenging times. The year ahead will bring its own challenges but I'm sure by working together, keeping focused on our priorities and putting you, our customers first we can realize our ambitions. These will certainly continue to be our priorities.
Happy New Year and may I wish you every success in 2013!
Nick A Nicolaou
Chief Executive Officer Sri Lanka and Maldives HSBC