Jun 20, 2023 494

HSBC rebrands, expands its SVB UK buy as HSBC Innovation Banking


HSBC has launched HSBC Innovation Banking, a new unit focused on providing banking services to startups, investors, and the wider tech community. The move follows HSBC's emergency acquisition of SVB UK for £1 in March 2023. The new division, which includes teams in the US, Israel, and Hong Kong, will have over 700 employees and initially serve around 3,000 customers in the UK. HSBC aims to tap into the technology sector's potential for growth, particularly in the UK's thriving tech and life sciences sectors. The launch also sets up competition between HSBC and First Citizens, which acquired SVB's US operations.

The firm sets up arch competition between former bedfellows: First Citizens acquired the majority of SVB’s banking operations, which were in the U.S. and included some $72 billion in deposits and loans and had been operating under the name SVB Bridge Bank after holding company SVB Financial collapsed.

The two are going out of the gate in true competitive style: First Citizens is currently suing HSBC for poaching SVB staff — specifically people like David Sabow. who had been the head of SVB in the U.S. Sabow will now lead HSBC Innovation Banking out of the U.S. It also recruited what appears to have been the whole team of SVB Israel: Led by David Cohen, it also includes his whole team of Gadi Moshe, Alon Oz, Tamir Efrati, and Meir Slobodov, plus some 20 others. Indeed, that lawsuit was likely filed in anticipation of the announcement and push made official today.

Erin Platts, who had been the head of SVB UK, appears to be leading the new Innovation Banking business with the title “CEO of HSBC Innovation Banking UK”.

The large incumbent bank’s effort to tap into the fast-growing technology sector strategy is coming at an inflection point — or at least HSBC hopes that to be the case. Funding for technology companies had been gushing like a geyser for years leading up to and through the Covid-19 pandemic — one reason why SVB, originally a community bank for the nascent startup industry, had scaled into an outsized operation that regulators were struggling to keep up with. But in the last 18 months, all that has been reduced to a trickle — one big contributor to SVB’s failure.

Now, HSBC is making a bet that launching this new and redoubled effort, when the market is more quiet and at a low point, will set it up for big gains as it returns, with the added buffer that it will have a massive behemoth behind it to handle knocks more gracefully than SVB did.

It’s not clear what size the business is out of the gate with assets under management. When HSBC acquired SVB UK, the deal included assuming loans of around £5.5 billion and deposits of around £6.7 billion. In its last reported figures, covering the financial year ending 31 December 2022, SVB UK had recorded a profit before tax of £88 million, and HSBC said at the time of the acquisition that SVB UK’s tangible equity was expected to be around £1.4 billion.

“The UK’s world-leading technology and life sciences sectors are central to growing the UK economy and boosting global exports,” said Noel Quinn, Group Chief Executive of HSBC, in a statement. “HSBC now has a world-class team focused on innovation companies, their founders and their investors. We will protect this specialism and take it to the next level by combining these capabilities with our financial strength and global reach. Our new innovation teams will be there to support our clients’ international growth at every step.”

The operation will cover technology as well as adjacent areas, such as startup businesses and financiers in areas like life sciences.

“The UK is home to world-leading tech and life sciences sectors, and I am proud of the role the British government has played in securing their future and enabling them to thrive,” said UK Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, in a statement. ““HSBC Innovation Banking will help innovative businesses to unlock their potential, create more jobs and access new global opportunities – supporting my priority to grow the UK economy and cement our position as a science and tech superpower.”