Martin Tricaud has been President and Chief Executive Officer Korea for the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited since March 2013. In Korea, he serves since 2014 as a member of the Foreign Investment Advisory Council for the Mayor of Seoul, a member of the Seoul Financial Forum, a financial Think Tank and a board member of Junior Achievement Korea, a charitable organization supporting young people. He is also the Chairman of the French Trade Advisors Committee in Korea.
1. When did you first come to Korea?
I first came to Korea in 2004 on a business trip. At that time, I was the Global Head of Multinational Companies at HSBC Group which required a visit to Korea a couple of times a year to meet Korean clients. Then, I came to Korea in March 2013 with a longer term objective to lead HSBC’s Korea business as CEO. I very much enjoy living in Seoul with my family.
2. HSBC is one of the leading international banks and has a successful business in Korea. Would you briefly introduce the bank and the bank’s competitive strengths?
HSBC’s presence in Korea dates back to 1897 when it opened its first branch in Chemulpo (now Incheon) on 21 August. Currently, HSBC operates a bank and a securities branch and a fund administration service in Korea.
HSBC provides Global Banking and Markets services to financial institutions, Korean and multinational companies who are trading and investing locally and internationally and require access to the Bank’s extensive global network and knowledge of the Korean market.
As one of the largest international banks in Korea, HSBC has leading positions in foreign exchange, project and export financing, custody, trade, payments and cash management and debt capital markets. Investment banking businesses such as strategic advisory, primary equity and debt capital markets are served by HSBC Securities Seoul Branch, making HSBC a comprehensive banking services provider in Korea.
Notably, as the largest foreign bank in China, HSBC offers customers our unparalleled strengths to help connect our customers to new opportunities being created as China opens up its domestic capital markets. From trade to risk management and financing, HSBC provides comprehensive solutions in RMB as the market leader in RMB internationalization. HSBC was the first custodian bank to service a Korean Renminbi Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (RQFII) investor in 2014 and acted as the sole lead manager of the first RMB Kimchi bond in the same year.
3. HSBC is at the forefront of RMB internationalization globally and in Korea. Do you think Seoul has a potential to be an offshore RMB hub in Asia?
Yes. Most of all, China is Korea’s largest trading partner and the trading volume between the two nations is expected to continue to rise with the Korea – China FTA. This will increase the potential demand for finance and settlement services for RMB trade. In fact, recent data showed that RMB related transactions by Korean companies have significantly increased.
Plus, there is strong government support from both sides. Following the appointment of a RMB clearing bank in Korea and RMB 80 billion of RQFII quotas allocated to Korea last year, further measures were announced after the recent summit talk between Korea and China including bond issuance in RMB in China by the Korean government and Korean companies, increase of ceiling on the RQFII quota to RMB 120 billion and a direct RMB/Won trading within China.
Considering the geographic and cultural proximity to China, active physical and human exchanges and the strong government drive, Korea has a lot of potential to be an offshore RMB hub.
4. You have served on the Foreign Investment Advisory Council (FIAC) for two years providing active support to the Seoul Metropolitan Government ranging from the recent Seoul International Finance Conference to Mayor Park’s IR event in Shanghai last year. What do you think is the most important role for a FIAC member?
I think the most important role for a FIAC member is to play an ‘ambassador’ role in promoting Seoul to the international business community as well as to provide sincere advice on how to improve Seoul in the eyes of foreign investors.
While living here, I have realized that the City has much more charm and potential, both in terms of culture and business opportunities, than it is known to outsiders. Even though I have not lived here for many years, I am a happy advocate of Seoul and would like to give my full support in helping Seoul to get its worth.
5. How would you compare Seoul with other global financial centres such as London and Hong Kong from a banker’s point of view?
London and Hong Kong are already world class financial services centres with highly educated human resources, free competition and the use of English as a common language. Together with the British law and the presence of many financial services institutions, they have formed a very efficient eco-system favorable to the development of the financial services industry.
Promotion of Seoul as a financial eco system including banks, securities, asset managers, law firms, consulting firms and pension funds is still to be actively made.
Korea has a stronger manufacturing base whereas its services sector still has a lot of room to grow. I strongly believe that Seoul’s potential development as an offshore RMB hub can help it to move closer to its long standing goal of becoming a regional financial services centre in northeast Asia. This is a once in a life time opportunity. Indeed, in terms of RQFII quota, Seoul is now only next to Hong Kong and ahead of all the other financial centres, which is a considerable competitive advantage and already an achievement.
This eco-system should also create a forum for discussion and consultation for all stakeholders and facilitate innovation in the financial services industry working also closely with universities and research centres.
6. As a global banker who has worked with a lot of people with diverse cultural background, how is it to work with Korean employees?
Before I came to Korea, I heard a lot about how diligent Koreans were. Now, after almost three years of living here, I see why people say Korea’s biggest strength is its people power. Koreans are smart and work hard. Banking is a people business which makes human resources the most important asset. I think this partly explains why HSBC’s business in Korea has been successful!
7. What do you like to do when you’re not working? (Leisure, sports and charity works etc.)
Most of all, I like to travel with my family. Since I came to Korea, I visited many places such as Seoraksan, Manisan, Namhae, Muju, Jeju Island, Geoje and Wando. While enjoying the beautiful scenery and tasty local food, I got to learn more about Korea and Koreans as well. I also like hiking and in winter time, I take much pleasure in skiing. Luckily, there are a number of picturesque mountains and nice ski resorts in Korea.
8. Do you have any advice for prospective investors who are considering investing in Seoul? What factors should they consider before making a decision?
There are certain common factors that need to be taken into account when making an investment decision including government support, stable political system, rule of law, living environment, skilled workforce, advanced infrastructure, and culture. From this perspective, Seoul is a great place to do business in.
On top of these, geographic proximity to China, which is an important market for any business, is a strategic advantage of doing business in Seoul.