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This new HSBC Singapore head is far more powerful than you might think

A senior appointment in Singapore transaction banking might have once flown somewhat under the radar, but HSBC’s announcement that it’s just hired David Koh as head of global liquidity and cash management (GLCM) is significant in at least two ways. Koh’s move is further proof that HSBC is expanding in Singapore, despite making thousands of job cuts globally. And it also reflects a buoyant local job market for cash management professionals.

Koh joins from Standard Chartered, where he most recently led the transaction bank for Greater China and North Asia. His appointment suggest that cash management is one of the job functions that HSBC will expand in Singapore over the next year, says a Singapore-based recruiter with knowledge of the bank.

The expectation is that HSBC’s Singapore workforce – in GLCM and across the board – will continue to rise and will be comparatively unaffected by the 10,000 additional redundancies that the firm is reportedly making globally. HSBC in Singapore has increased its “business-facing headcount” by more than 10% over the past year and now employs over 3,000 people across all functions, a spokesperson for the bank told us previously.

Last month HSBC appointed Philip Lee as Southeast Asia vice chairman for global banking, the division that includes Koh’s GLCM team. Lee is tasked with continuing HSBC’s “investment in Singapore as a wholesale hub for Southeast Asia”, according to a September statement from HSBC, which describes Singapore as a “strategic priority for HSBC globally”. Similarly, a new HSBC statement says Koh’s appointment is part of a strategic plan, announced in March 2018, that focuses on investing heavily in Asean commercial banking, “both in technology and headcount”.

HSBC is currently looking for a senior client experience manager to join Koh’s GLCM team in Asia, according to its career site. GLCM is performing well globally. Revenues in the unit were up 12% to $1,387m year-on-year in the first half of 2019, according to HSBC’s H1 financial results. 

As we noted last month, the job market in Koh’s sector, cash management, is heating up in Singapore and across Asia. Banks are recruiting as the function starts to shred its unglamorous image as it expands and becomes more critical to banks’ businesses in the region. In transaction banking (which incorporates cash management and trade finance), the top-three players regionally are Citi, HSBC and Standard Chartered, according to a survey from research firm Coalition in April.

The first half of 2019 marked the third year of sequential growth in global transaction banking revenues, with a “strong performance” in both cash management and trade finance, despite macroeconomic headwinds, according to a separate September Coalition report. The Asian region outperformed the rest of the world in H1. While transaction banking revenues were flat year-on-year in EMEA and the Americas, they rose 8% to $4.2bn in Asia. This was mainly driven by revenues in cash management, which includes services such as currency clearing, overdrafts and wire transfers. “Global net interest income continued to grow primarily driven by Asia, particularly in the Greater China and Southeast Asia regions,” says the Coalition report, referring to cash management.

Image credit: bunhill, Getty

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AUTHORSimon Mortlock Content Manager

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