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HSBC's Year of the Dragon — Did Anyone Warn the Chief Risk Officer?

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The Year of the Dragon is the luckiest part of the 12-year Chinese zodiac calendar — which has to be good news for the banks celebrating it.

HSBC threw a party in New York on Tuesday evening to ring in the lunar new year, bidding farewell to what was supposed to be the "calmer" Year of the Rabbit. But as the bank's U.S. chief executive acknowledged, the Year of the Dragon might also augur some risks for financial companies.

This is "a year of excitement and unpredictability," Irene Dorner told the audience of customers, some of whom might be a little tired of the days of exciting and unpredictable banking.

But there are silver linings for those customers — and, presumably, for their bank. The Year of the Dragon is also "good for anyone starting a business, because money can be had easily," Dorner added, before exhorting her audience to "be careful" with their finances during the year.

HSBC, which has its headquarters in London but has considered moving them to Hong Kong, on Tuesday night split the difference and celebrated the Chinese New Year in Manhattan with an annual raucous party atop — where else? — the Mandarin Oriental hotel.

Guests entering the ballroom were greeted by a several-feet-long ice sculpture of a dragon, which was starting to drip by the time that Dorner and her translator took the stage. Official guests included Xu Bing, commercial counselor from the New York consulate general of the People's Republic of China.

Dorner, a veteran of lunar new year celebrations from her time running HSBC's Malaysian bank, eventually ceded the floor to a four-person lion dance. Bank customers and employees, dressed in good-luck red or sober Wall Street black, nibbled on Peking duck crepes and shrimp dumplings while watching the larger-than-life puppets bounce around the room. And the evening ended with an appearance from the bank's God of Wealth, who passed out favors that hopefully will bring in a year of luck without the financial volatility.

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