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The Warsaw Voice » National Voice » November 25, 2011
Britain in Poland
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Strength and Opportunity
November 25, 2011   
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Alan Jarman, CEO of HSBC Bank Poland and chairman of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, talks to the Voice.

HSBC announced in July that it was closing its retail banking operations in Poland to concentrate on services for corporate and institutional clients. What was the reason for the move?
I think everybody can appreciate the competitiveness of the market here in Poland. While we were pleased with the progress of the business we were building, what was becoming clearer to us was that the extent of competition was going to make any large-scale entry organically into retail banking very difficult and very long-term. We took the decision to concentrate on our core strengths, which are in corporate banking and wholesale banking.

How does this strategy reflect market trends and the outlook for Poland in particular?
The short-term and the medium-term outlook for Poland and the Polish economy remains strong. The economy is in a far stronger shape than the majority of European markets. GDP growth this year of over 4 percent would be an excellent result and even in the midst of the difficulties within the eurozone at the moment, the HSBC forecast for next year is GDP growth of around 3 percent. So while it will slow, it is not threatening recession at this point, which I think is a major accolade to the strength of the Polish economy. It has clearly withstood a number of shocks and a number of difficult times. From that viewpoint, one must conclude that the Polish economy is in a good state. Looking further down the road, what HSBC has forecast is that the amount of trade that Poland will undertake with its trading partners will increase over the next 15 years by 125 percent. In real numbers, that’s growing from $283 billion of trade today to $690 billion of trade in 2025. That is not so far away, so as the Polish economy opens up even further, as it continues to grow and be more connected with other markets, that is something that HSBC is exceptionally well placed to support both on an inbound and the outbound basis in terms of trade flows.

How long has HSBC been in Poland?
We’ve now been in Poland over 20 years with a number of different businesses, so we’ve got a good understanding of the market. Even though we’ve closed our retail business, we’re committed to and look forward to supporting the growth of the Polish economy over the next 20 years and beyond.

How long have you been in Poland yourself?
I’ve been here two-and-a-half years. My wife and son live with me here too. We hugely enjoy it. I’m also chairman of the British-Polish Chamber of Commerce, which is another responsibility that I enjoy. One thing that impresses not just me, but any visitor that I see coming into Poland, is the strength of opportunity that exists here.

What kind of opportunity?
The strength of the economy and its ability to continue to grow in a sustainable and balanced way. We see good prospects for the Polish economy, and we will continue to support it through our corporate business and through our global banking and markets business. That’s something we are very committed to and I hope we will be a key part of connecting Poland and Polish business up to the new markets that they explore in the future. Very clearly, Poland is the leading emerging market in Europe. We’ll continue to sell that story abroad—that the opportunity that awaits Poland’s trading partners is considerable. If Poland can continue to grow and develop its trade in that way, then that will underpin the future economic performance of the country for many years to come. The infrastructure needed to support it is being developed, and the investment into roads and into rail will help enormously in unlocking that potential. Without doubt, the medium-term outlook for Poland is strong.

FACTFILE
The HSBC Group, based in London, has 7,500 offices in over 80 countries. With assets of $2,691 billion, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organizations.

Alan Jarman was appointed CEO of HSBC Bank Poland in June 2009. With a career at HSBC spanning 24 years, he has direct experience in 10 countries and markets, as well as indirect experience of a further 25 countries and markets. An Associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, he was educated at Loughborough University in Britain. He is a keen sports fan. He is married and has a five-year-old son.
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