Cynthia Lee, regional head of Private Wealth Solutions in Asia-Pacific for HSBC Private Banking, highlights various aspects of the bank—from its institutional experience to its broad footprint in Asia—that make it stand out in the market

HSBC Private Banking executive Cynthia Lee’s passion for family banking goes back a long way, to her teens, when she began collecting antique documents such as promissory notes and old government bonds. “I have one which is a title deed for an old piece of land in Shanghai from the 1940s during the war, when things were a bit chaotic,” recalls the bank’s regional head of Private Wealth Solutions in Asia-Pacific for HSBC Private Banking.

“A lot of people were left with no option but to entrust their properties to strangers or creditors or debtors because they had to flee the country, so this one-page document basically tells this particular family’s story. This is how I was first drawn to working with families.”

That long-held interest made her decision to join HSBC Private Banking in January this year an easy one. “The opportunity to lead the Private Wealth Solutions business and bring a different level of service offering to our clients was essentially why I made the decision to move to HSBC Private Banking.”

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Above Photo: Jensen Hoi/Hong Kong Tatler

Rich history and strong reputation

With its record of 154 years as an Asian rooted but internationally focussed bank, Lee feels HSBC provides a unique and powerful proposition for clients. “We are one of the few players who have been in Asia for four or five generations, so we have had actual institutional experience from working with numerous generations in planning matters,” she says.

“We are at the heart of Asia and remain the largest foreign international bank in mainland China. We have a huge presence not only in our home market in Hong Kong, but across the key markets in Asia. Collectively, whether it is from the commercial banking, retail or the investment banking arms, we provide a whole suite of solutions for our Asian clients that gives them a broader footprint and global reach. I feel this is the power of HSBC.”

Shared culture is the key

Another strength Lee is eager to highlight is the strong culture and shared values among HSBC employees, something she feels is essential to enable any business to succeed. “Culture is unique to any institution and it takes a long time for any group of people to develop their own culture and DNA,” she says. “I think our shared value system and common vision is also a key component that allows us to work well together.”

Beyond the number crunching and hard data, Lee points out that banking, after all, is all about people. “The value to any business, be it private banking or private wealth solutions, is the investment that we make, and the value that we can bring to our clients is also the people, our talent,” says Lee.

This emphasis on shared values extends beyond HSBC employees and, as Lee points out, is just as important for the clients they serve. HSBC Private Banking dedicates a lot of time and effort to helping families reinforce shared values and achieve common goals. Having worked with some families for decades, Lee stresses the importance of going above and beyond to ensure clients’ needs are satisfied. To this end, Private Wealth Solutions at HSBC Private Banking recently expanded its Family Governance Team, which now includes a dedicated Family Office Advisory Team.

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Above Photo: Jensen Hoi/Hong Kong Tatler

Leading family office services provider

“Based on industry estimates, there are over 1,300 family offices in Asia Pacific and what’s interesting is that you see a 44 per cent growth in the number of family offices here over the past 2 years,” says Lee. “We recently did a client event in the region and we clearly see a booming demand for family office services here in Asia. That is why we decided to expand this team.”

In addition to the usual services that family governance teams usually offer, Lee says HSBC Private Banking goes the extra mile to meet and exceed the expectations of clients.

“We actually roll up our sleeves and come up with solutions as opposed to just facilitating family meetings and drafting family constitutions,” says Lee. Another way in which Lee believes HSBC Private Banking distinguishes itself from other service providers is its emphasis on caring for the families it works with. The Probate Team of Private Wealth Solutions at HSBC Private Banking makes the effort to visit the graves of past generations, year after year. “After all, this is more than just a trustee business; we are here to look after families, hopefully for generations and generations to come,” says Lee.

See also: Nurturing Social Change At HSBC

Supporting community initiatives 

This caring attitude also extends to HSBC Private Banking’s relationship with the community at large and is what drives the bank to work with families to facilitate philanthropic efforts. “We help to administer charitable foundations for Asia families and have been donating millions of dollars annually to the communities for and on behalf of these foundations,” says Lee. This is done by working closely with families and individuals to establish their philanthropic objectives and identify charitable projects that meet their vision.

“For example, one of our clients is interested in both environmental and social issues, so we partner with an NGO called Feeding HK. They connect industry partners with food surplus, with their charity partners to redistribute the surplus donations to those who are in need across Hong Kong,” says Lee. “Through our partnership, we helped to contribute to feeding over 37,000 people last year alone. That’s over 900,000 meals.”

See also: Why Sustainability Matters At HSBC


Understanding and adapting

While Lee is eager for the opportunities that her new role at HSBC Private Banking has afforded her, she readily accepts that it will not be without challenges. In fact, throughout her 20-plus years in the finance field, Lee has seen a lot of changes in the industry and believes that the ability to adapt and cater to changing needs is also vital in such a competitive environment.

“Globally we are seeing more geopolitical risk and, at the same time, the growth of artificial intelligence,” she points out. “How that is going to change the world is a subject that a lot of thought is being given to. In addition, the widening of wealth gaps in many developed economies is getting more attention, so you have all these forces at play that are shaping the 21st century.

“Banking itself has gone through ecosystem changes. Every bank has been through its own period of regulatory scrutiny, so that also changes where we are at as an institution.”

With a changing world comes changing client needs. “Whether you go back 10 or 15 years or forward the clock to the next 20 years, you will see massive amounts of wealth changing hands in Asia,” Lee says. “These patriarchs or matriarchs of a business are now at a more senior stage of their lives, so they will be relinquishing their control. With these commercial realities, we spend a lot of time as a private bank to ensure that we can keep up with the needs and demands of the succeeding generations of clients, as they will be the ones taking control.”

The information contained in this article has not been reviewed in the light of your individual circumstances and is for information purposes only. It does not purport to provide legal, taxation or other advice and should not be taken as such. No client or other reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of the content of this article without seeking specific professional advice.

Issued by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited and HSBC Trustee (Hong Kong) Limited.

Read more about HSBC Private Banking here.

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