Two of HSBC’s front-line workers in Canada reported something strange - a woman who’d attempted to deposit $40,000 cash into her account but couldn’t prove her identity. Two months later, they found out that the same woman was wanted for human trafficking. “I got goose bumps,” said one of the whistleblowers. It was an example of HSBC’s global effort in the fight against financial crime.
There could hardly have been more jeopardy in the HSBC story. In 2012, the bank paid $1.9bn in a settlement over money laundering. A Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) meant that their US banking licence was under threat if they failed to clean up their act. This precipitated new ‘Global Standards’. We worked with HSBC to help them on the journey from the miscreant to the hero of the banking sector. It was a story in three parts.
Better processes were nothing without better principles; the campaign we developed was devised to create a new culture of vigilance. ‘Ask The Right Questions’ encouraged employees to speak up if something didn’t feel right. This was complemented by ‘At Our Best’, a morale-boosting initiative that celebrated staff members who demonstrated the values and behaviours on which Global Standards depended.
The second part of the story was conceived to deal with concerns that enhanced procedures were putting the bank at a disadvantage. ‘Safer Today, Stronger Tomorrow’ emphasised the benefits to customers and the business of being more secure.
The final part of this story was to give HSBC an emotive ‘higher purpose’ around ‘Together, Protecting A World Of Opportunity’. This was communicated via a campaign for internal audiences, making them feel proud to work for HSBC and inspiring new behaviours that were recognised as protecting not only the bank but also the communities they serve.
In December 2017, the DPA was lifted. “HSBC is able to combat financial crime more effectively today,” commented Global CEO, Stuart Gulliver.