A worldwide management shake-up at HSBC Holdings PLC includes changes at the top of its North American organization, but neither the banking com- pany nor analysts see any alteration of strategic direction.
"Our reading is that this represents continuity," said David Townshend, an analyst with Goldman Sachs in London. That means "a further expansion in Asia outside Hong Kong and in Latin America and a continued drive into new products such as asset management and insurance."
London-based HSBC announced Sunday that Sir William Purves, 65, will retire May 31 as group chairman. He will be succeeded by John R.H. Bond, 56, HSBC group chief executive since 1992.
Mr. Bond will also take over from Sir William as chairman of Midland Bank, London, and of British Bank of the Middle East.
James H. Cleave, 55, will retire at yearend as chief executive officer of the North American holding company, HSBC Americas Inc., and as president and CEO of its lead bank, Marine Midland of Buffalo, N.Y. He will be succeeded by Marine Midland's chief operating officer, Malcolm Burnett, 50.
Mr. Cleave will remain a director of HSBC Americas and Marine Midland, and will serve as nonexecutive chairman of Hongkong Bank of Canada, which he formerly headed.
HSBC acquired a 52% stake in Marine Midland in 1980 and the remaining 48% in 1987. The $20.2 billion-asset retail and middle market bank earned $292 million last year, up 27%. In addition to Marine, HSBC runs an investment banking operation, HSBC Securities Inc., and last year set up a joint, San Francisco-based trade finance bank with Wells Fargo & Co.
"Marine Midland has been doing pretty well, and I would imagine they will leave the strategy for improving productivity in place," Mr. Townshend said. "Keep in mind this is a global group, and the lack of large-scale investments in the United States means they feel they can add more value to their investments elsewhere."
HSBC, one of the most geographically dispersed banking groups in the world, has been steadily expanding out of its original base in Hong Kong and Asia. This year it acquired Banco Bamerindus in Brazil, 20% of Banca Serfin, Mexico's third-biggest bank, and other minority bank stakes in Chile and Peru.
Hong Kong last year accounted for 37% of group net earnings of nearly $5 billion, up 26% from the previous year. Analysts expect that with nearly $93 billion of market capitalization, HSBC is likely to make additional acquisitions.
Among other executive changes:
Robert B. Engel, 43, will become chief banking officer at Marine Midland, and Robert H. Muth, 45, will become chief administrative officer.
Sir Q.W. Lee will retire Dec. 31 as chairman of Hang Seng Bank. He will be succeeded by David G. Eldon, 51, who remains chief executive of Hongkong Bank.
William R. P. Dalton, president and CEO of Hongkong Bank of Canada, will succeed Keith Whitson as CEO of Midland Bank. Mr. Whitson will succeed Mr. Bond as HSBC group chief executive designate. The new Canadian CEO will be Youssef Nasr, currently deputy chief executive of Hongkong Bank of Canada.
Sir William Purves, stepping down after 12 years as chairman, stressed his close relationship with Mr. Bond and said he was "very pleased that ourboard has endorsed my recommendations."