The London-based bank is set to say at its annual results that it will focus its efforts on growing economies such as China at the same time as maintaining its market share in lower growth Western economies such as the UK.
The chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, presenting his first set of full-year results, is expected to impress the need for HSBC to concentrate on commercial banking in both Asia and Latin America if it is to continue to grow.
But the strategic push – which one senior banking source likened to the way Willy Purves led the banking giant in the early 1990s – is unlikely to deflect from arguments about the scale of compensation at the bank, despite its profitability.
Under the terms of his contract, Gulliver could receive a bonus of as much as three times his GBP 1.25m salary, worth as much as GBP 3.75m.
However it is thought his actual bonus – decided by the bank’s remuneration committee on the basis of a number of financial metrics – is likely to be around the GBP 3m mark. Gulliver is expected to ask for it to be paid on a deferred basis in restricted shares, as he did for his 2010 bonus.
Whatever the pay-out, it will be considerably down on previous bonuses, given 2011 was Gulliver’s first year as chief executive. He previously ran HSBC’s investment banking division where rewards tend to be higher.
In 2009 Gulliver was awarded a GBP 9m bonus, and picked up a GBP 5.2m award in 2010. In addition he is eligible for deferred shares worth as much as GBP 7.5m through the bank’s long-term incentive plan. Overall, bonus levels at HSBC’s investment banking arm are expected to be considerably down on last year as the result of the problems in global markets and a lack of merger and acquisition activity.
In its annual report, which will be published at the same time as the full-year results, HSBC is not expected to disclose the exact amount to be spent on bonuses for its investment banking arm. But it is expected the ratio of total employee expense versus income – which last year stood at 24pc – is likely to have reduced marginally.
In addition to profits – consensus forecasts suggest a full-year profit of $22.3bn (GBP 14bn) – the financial focus will be on the targets Gulliver set at last May’s strategy review.
He is expected to give an update on his commitment to reduce costs of $2.5-3.5bn by 2013, in particular focusing on the 15-plus sales of non-core businesses he has announced since last May.
Overall, revenue is likely to have fallen by roughly 5pc in the final quarter of 2011, with continued growth in Asia thought to have been offset by its investment banking arm’s weaker performance. Further negatives are likely to come from the bank’s US sub-prime mortgage book, which is in run-off, but may have required further impairment charges.
In part to deflect from the likely bonus row, Gulliver is also set to emphasize the bank’s contribution to the UK economy, in particular its net 4pc lending increase to small and medium sized companies, despite the market shrinking.