Shunting the operating base of HSBC chief executive Michael Geoghegan from London to Hong Kong tells us two things. Firstly, it represents another signal of the increasing shift in economic power from the west to the east. Where a traditional G7 power base of US and European interests once held sway, now it is rapidly being overtaken by a wider group of nations in the G20, reflecting the expansion in emerging markets such as China and India. Banking markets are less mature in Asia than they are here and thus the opportunities to grow and increase profits are greatest.
But there is a second and more reassuring point. It demonstrates that western banks are returning to their stuffy savings and loans knitting, a pattern that once produced solid streams of profits that allowed large chunks of cash to be handed back to shareholders on a bi-annual basis through dividends.
In their desperate dash for growth far too many banks have developed a devil may care attitude in regards to growth, expanding into all sorts of highly leveraged, high risk products and markets. That shift has led us to the events of the past few years and the near collapse of the western banking system, so a return of grey suits and reassuringly dullness is a welcome breakthrough.