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HSBC’s view from the top

I recently went to a conference in the HSBC tower at Canary Wharf. 

On entering the building, there’s  a few things that strike me.

First, the lovely pair of lions as you walk up to the building. 

The
lions are feng shui good fortune symbols that you’ll find outside most
of HSBC’s global offices, and are replicas of the lions that guard the traditional Shanghai offices of HSBC.

Being a saddo, when I was in Shanghai actually went to see these lions.  Funnily enough, I was one of several
bankers who had their pictures taken by the lions as these are the
original HSBC lions. 

According to Wikipedia, HSBC Shanghai
ordered the lions from the UK at the time of construction and named
them after the Hong Kong branch manager, A.G. Stephen, and the Shanghai
branch manager, G.H. Stitt, with a replica pair placed outside the Hong
Kong branch.  Unfortunately, the lions were nicked by the Japanese
during the war and so the Shanghai lions are also copies placed there
by the Pudong Development Bank in 1997.  Equally, the classic HSBC
building is no longer owned by HSBC – as mentioned, Pudong Development
Bank own it because  HSBC moved out in the 1950’s due to the political
situation at the time.

Ah well, there’s nothing like authentic is there?

The second thing that struck me was the lovely pair of security guards who greeted me before I entered the building.

"Where are you goin’?"  was the grunt from the chap who looked a little bit like Odd-Job from the classic James Bond film Goldfinger.

"Pardon", was my response as I could have just been walking down the street.

"Where you goin’ widdat?" said Odd-Job as he blocked my path pointing at my laptop bag.

"I have a conference here."

"Puddit threw the scanner den."

OK,
so he wanted me to go through the door – I still hadn’t walked into the
HSBC Building at this point – and to have my laptop bag scanned.   I
suppose in these days of terrorism, a bank’s HQ has to be secure but it
didn’t do much for my sense of comfort to be greeted by such an
intrusive welcome.

Anyways, after sweeping through the security scanner, the ‘remove all
articles that may be sharp’ request, the biometric access control
panel, the bodysearch and the Guantanomo Bay ‘put on this orange
boilersuit whilst we check your clothes for radiation’ command … I
got into the building and took the elevator to the 41st floor.

And what a view from the 41st floor.  On a clear day you can see all the way over to … Barclays Bank.

Now,
it cannot be by chance that the main customer hospitality suite at HSBC
is strategically positioned so that you walk to the window and look
right down upon Barclays Bank.  The Barclays building is a good few metres shorter than the HSBC Tower. 

In
fact, it’s 34 metres shorter.  The HSBC Tower is 200 metres tall with
42 floors whilst the Barclays building is 156 metres tall with 32
floors.

In fact, as we were milling around before the conference
began, I spotted HSBC’s chairman Stephen Green in the room with his arm
around a client’s shoulder steering the customer over towards the
floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the view of Barclays and beyond.

I couldn’t quite hear the conversation but I imagine it went something like this:

Stephen Green points to the horizon and says, "now there is the
Dartford Bridge, that is the Millennium Dome or, as it’s now known, the
O2 stadium, and over there is City Airport."

The client points at the Barclays tower and says "what’s that?"

Mr. Green responds, "Oh that?  That’s nothing."

Ah well, at least Citigroup’s centre
is 200 metres tall so they have equal stature … except that HSBC put
a radio antennae on their roof which is a metre taller than Citi’s.

Na-na-na na-na.

About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here…

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