Kevin Quinn is in the role of his life.
The 48-year-old Buffalo native has just been named as senior vice president of corporate banking for upstate New York for HSBC Bank USA – the bank’s highest-ranking position in the region. While he doesn’t directly oversee every aspect of HSBC’s operations in Buffalo, or all of the 3,000 employees that remain downtown, he is now the public face of the bank.
That’s a big change for the U.S. subsidiary of London-based HSBC Holdings Plc, which has generally put British executives in such prominent roles in the years since it fully absorbed Marine Midland Bank.
And it’s a coup for the South Buffalo native and Canisius High School graduate, who went away for college and a five-year law career, but has otherwise stayed true to his roots.
Q: What is your role here?
A: I view myself very much as a facilitator and a strategic leader for the upstate region for HSBC. I think it’s very important that we continue to get our message out, that we are a tremendous resource, we are part of a $2 trillion global organization. We have 3,000 employees based in Buffalo, with more in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany. I think that kind of muscle and might is a great benefit for upstate New York.
I view my role as supporting the teams that we have, in whatever capacity that they might need support. Given the divestiture of the branches, some of that support is just continuing to get the word out that we are, without question, still in this market. We’re here in the market to stay. We’ve got a very healthy book of business. It continues to be the second-largest book of business for HSBC here in the U.S. So we’re quite proud of that and we’re excited by the opportunities that lie ahead.
We’re actively hiring in this market as well. We have up to 100 openings in the Buffalo area, across a wide range of capacities, including our commercial business, and we continue to be a very substantial player in the community as well.
Q: How does it feel to be a Buffalo native in this role?
A: I’m very excited about it. We have some tremendous colleagues from the UK, and we have a tremendous bench strength of colleagues on a global basis. So I’m quite flattered to have been selected for this post.
My background as a Buffalonian certainly helps me understand this market. I’ve spent time in Rochester, Syracuse and Albany over the years, so I understand the upstate market in general, and I feel very fortunate to be in this role. I feel very excited, flattered and humbled.
Q: What benefits do you see for HSBC in this market in upstate and Western New York?
A: We are now banking about 65 percent of the large corporates that currently have international activity, across upstate New York. Within Western New York, we probably bank 75 percent.
We’re excited to know that Brookings Institution says that in the next five years, 75 percent of companies that are not already doing business internationally will start. That plays right into our global footprint and the story that we want to share with the region.
We have commercial banking offices in 64 countries in the world. That has value to companies that are thinking about expanding internationally.
If you look at the U.S. economy over the last two to three years, exports have been the one bright spot. It’s an area that’s gaining focus, not only from the federal government, but also from the state government. Andrew Cuomo is very much a supporter of exporting.
Q: Why is commercial banking in the U.S. so important, and how does trade play into that?
A: We are currently hiring for 260 positions across the U.S. network, including in upstate cities as well as offices in New York City, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle. We are ramping up our commercial presence here in the United States and we are doing that because we know that the U.S. economy is still the single largest economy globally.
My region is the second-best performing region in the U.S. It’s a substantial book of business, a business that we see great upside with, a business that is comprised of a very loyal customer base, and a business that continues to reach out to us for assistance with international activity.
As the world continues to become more globally connected, we have great upside opportunity to help support that growth and play a key role in fostering export activity within the upstate market.
There’s no better way to do it than to consider export activity, especially when you look at potential GDP growth and projected GDP growth of 2 percent or less, and you look at projected GDP growth of emerging markets. We think it makes great sense for companies to begin to explore activity in emerging markets.
We think the upstate market is just beginning to explore opportunities to export and as they do, we want to help them. And we’re seeing it on a daily basis. Our relationship managers continue to field calls from companies that are considering doing business internationally, and we’re converting those phone calls into customers.
Q: What would stop HSBC from selling or closing the remaining upstate businesses as well?
A: The decision to divest the retail network was a strategic decision. It was a strategic decision that was driven by a global strategy. That global strategy plays off a desire to connect our business lines on a global basis. So to the extent that we had a business line that does not support global connectivity, we feel it was appropriate and proper to review that business. The upstate New York branch network was a tremendous franchise, and a franchise that I personally hated to see go. But the decision is very consistent with the bank’s global strategy to emphasize the connectivity of our business globally.
That’s what we can bring to our customer base, and we do it every day. We are currently the second-largest commercial business for HSBC within the U.S., and we have ample runway to continue to grow that business. If there was an opportunity to exit the business, we could have taken it with the branch divestiture. We chose not to, because it’s a business that fits strategically with the objectives of the bank on a global basis, and it’s a business that continues to have 3,000 people.
Those people function across all lines of the bank. Those people support not just HSBC locally and upstate, but they support HSBC throughout North America and HSBC on a global level. We have very few hubs of activity that have the employee base that Buffalo has. It’s a critical mass, and it’s a very important hub for the bank in general.
If you were to consider picking up those 3,000 people and transitioning them to New York, it would be cost-prohibitive. If you were to consider transitioning them to Chicago, it would be cost-prohibitive. So this market has great advantages for HSBC.
And we think this market has great international connectivity. Our proximity to Toronto, just an hour and a half across the border, is tremendous. Our connectivity into the southern half of the U.S., which blends very naturally into Mexico, is a plus. And the fact that this market has very deep roots in international connectivity, if you go back to the early roots of the Erie Canal and the trafficking of grain across the Great Lakes and across the ocean to Europe. So we think there are international roots here and a reason to continue to be here, and we think our portfolio is extremely healthy, with ample opportunity to grow.