When Peter Wong introduced his retirement this week after a decade as HSBC’s chief government for Asia, he informed workers that turning disaster into alternative was “embedded” within the financial institution’s DNA.

HSBC has lurched by means of a series of crises in Europe, the US and South America up to now 10 years — whereas Wong has quietly eased a path for Europe’s largest lender into Hong Kong’s wealthiest circles and Beijing’s corridors of energy.

Across the time he grew to become Asia CEO, $8 in each $10 of the financial institution’s earnings had been generated within the area however half its mortgage ebook and greater than two-thirds of its capital had been deployed in Europe and the US.

Now, development in China and Hong Kong has change into the core of its world technique and greater than $100bn of capital has been reallocated to the area. HSBC’s US enterprise and a part of its European operations have been wound down or offered off.

Wong’s hyperlinks to Hong Kong’s enterprise elite and China’s Communist occasion have been essential. Allies say the veteran Hong Kong banker has change into “indispensable” to HSBC — he’ll keep in a brand new function because the financial institution’s chair in Hong Kong, a place historically occupied by the worldwide CEO.

But the 69-year-old was thrust right into a disaster of his personal final 12 months when he compromised greater than a century of cautious political neutrality at HSBC by signing a petition in favour of Beijing’s powerful nationwide safety legislation in Hong Kong. That received plaudits in Beijing however catapulted Wong’s title on to the radars of irate politicians in Westminster and Washington.

“It triggered critically difficulties for Noel Quinn and Mark Tucker,” stated one former HSBC board member, referring to the financial institution’s chief government and chair respectively. “The emphasis has all been on Peter’s political connections since he signed the NSL petition however that does his 40-year profession as a particularly good banker a disservice.”

HSBC’s fortunes have change into intertwined with China. Wong’s relationship with the Communist occasion — he sits on its core political advisory physique — has been an enormous profit to the financial institution. He smoothed over tensions with Beijing after HSBC gave paperwork to US prosecutors investigating Chinese language tech group Huawei over alleged sanctions breaches.

“The Chinese language authorities considers him a pal and a trusted individual,” stated Sir David Li, government chair of Financial institution of East Asia and essentially the most senior banker in Hong Kong. Jeffrey Lam, a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council, stated: “HSBC is between two hotplates: the mainland and the US. Peter has dealt with it tremendously — coping with that battle takes talent.”

Wong, who can also be a trusted pal and banker to Hong Kong tycoons akin to Sir Li Ka-shing, Henry Cheng and Thomas Kwok, was poached from Normal Chartered in 2005 when HSBC realised it had nearly no senior executives from Hong Kong or China. He was already established in native and mainland Chinese language enterprise and political circles as chair of the territory’s influential Affiliation of Banks.

Highly effective buddies deeply ensconced in Hong Kong politics say he’s “diplomatic” and “no nonsense”.

“He talks little or no however when he does he means what he says,” stated BEA’s Li. Peter Ma, chair of Ping An, the Chinese language insurer that’s HSBC’s largest shareholder, described Wong because the “elder statesman” of worldwide banking in Asia.

As chair of Hong Kong’s authentic financial institution, Wong will keep his standing amongst Hong Kong’s taipans — the town’s most revered businessmen. Though he might be changed as Asia head by two more junior colleagues, he’ll maintain residing in Taipan Home, HSBC’s $73m residence for its senior native government on the town’s unique Peak.

Extra importantly, he’ll play an important function in shaping the territory’s future as a global monetary centre. Hong Kong has been pressured to defend its popularity as a world finance hub because the eruption in 2019 of violent pro-democracy protests and the introduction final 12 months of the nationwide safety legislation.

Wong spends hours discussing points which are of “important curiosity to our future as a global monetary centre,” stated Joseph Yam, Hong Kong’s first central banker who now sits on the legislative committee.

“Folks accuse [Hong Kong] of changing into an increasing number of like China,” he added. “That’s foolish — Peter is ready to see that. He doesn’t have the type of problematic tradition we see on Wall Road, the place monetary establishments have change into self-serving fairly than serving the economic system.”

There isn’t any retirement age at HSBC so the timing of Wong’s departure has prompted questions. One insider linked it to the choice to relocate four global business heads from London to Hong Kong later this 12 months.

“Peter has traditionally had lots of independence, now there might be plenty of folks on the thirty fourth flooring of 1 Queen’s Street Central [HSBC’s historic local headquarters] bumping into him, making an attempt to connect themselves to Hong Kong’s very robust P&L,” the individual stated.

“Standing and face rely for tonnes in Hong Kong,” stated one former HSBC government. “So being given the title of chair of Hong Kong’s authentic financial institution is tremendous candy.”

Saying Wong’s retirement, Quinn stated his time working with Wong “helped form my perception that HSBC has a vibrant future as a world financial institution that may bridge east and west”.

Because the mediator between HSBC, mainland China, Hong Kong and the remainder of the world — together with typically risky rising markets — Wong is used to navigating conflicts. As mainland China grows in significance for HSBC, it’s seemingly there might be extra geopolitical fires to place out.

“We’ve been a visitor in different folks’s international locations for the financial institution’s complete life,” stated one former HSBC boss. “It isn’t stunning crises occur usually.”