On the Move: Sir John Bond

From an Asian bank with vast global reach to Vodafone, which is shrinking its horizons to focus on its home market.

by Abi Newman
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

After an illustrious 45-year career at HSBC, banker Sir John Bond this May leaves his post as chairman to assume another high-profile role as chairman of Vodafone, the mobile telecoms giant. Bond, who joined HSBC as a 19-year-old trainee and worked in Asia for 25 years, is widely credited with managing the rapid expansion of HSBC from a small Hong Kong institution to the world's third-largest bank.

His career path gives him a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities of globalisation. He did not go to university, preferring to work as a deckhand, disc jockey and bartender before joining HSBC.

He gained the second-highest marks of his year worldwide in the Institute of Bankers' exams, and after a steady rise through the ranks, emerged as chief executive of HSBC's merchant banking arm, Wardley, in the mid 1980s. In the early 1990s, he was instrumental in turning round the fortunes of HSBC's North American subsidiary, Marine Midland. That led to his appointment as group chief executive of HSBC Holdings in 1993 and as chairman in 1998.

The 64-year-old has unparalleled experience in the Far East, where Vodafone faces its biggest challenge. HSBC's expansion into developing nations has taught him several lessons, including the importance of self-reliance, client orientation and international teamwork. Noted for his relaxed leadership style, Bond attributes great importance to respecting local cultures.

"In China, we're a Chinese bank; in the US, we're an American bank. Local markets shape our culture."

Rigorous cost control is at the heart of Bond's success. He has applied this consistently throughout the organisation. Relative to the size and success of the business he heads, he is probably the least well-paid senior executive of any FTSE 100 company. He turns off lights and expects staff to travel second class.

To succeed in business, he says, you have to combine qualities of pragmatism, sensitivity, curiosity and a recognition that life is a continuous learning process. He values initiative, action and decisiveness and is fond of the Chinese proverb: "Today, you're a rooster, tomorrow you're a feather duster".

In addition to a few non-executive directorships, Bond was also chairman of the Institute of International Finance, an agency that tackles the debt problems of the poorest countries.

CV AT A GLANCE... EDUCATION Tonbridge School, Kent CAREER 1961: Joined HSBC 1983 Elected a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Banks 1988: Appointed executive director of the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation 1990: Moved to Hong Kong and assumed responsibility for the group's commercial banking operations 1991: President and CEO of HSBC USA Inc, a wholly-owned subsidiary of HSBC Holdings 1993: Group CEO of HSBC Holdings in London 1998: Appointed group chairman of HSBC and chairman of the Institute of International Finance, Washington DC 1999: Received a knighthood 2002: President of the International Monetary Conference and a non-executive director of the Bank of England until 2004 2005: Non-executive director of Vodafone Group Plc

IN COMPARISON... DIDIER LOMBARD, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, FRANCE TELECOM

Didier Lombard, chairman and chief executive of France Telecom (FT), is very much a product of France's unique education system. He attended the Ecole Nationale Superieure de Telecommunications, one of France's Grandes Ecoles d'Ingenieurs that produce public figures who move effortlessly between government and commercial life. Lombard's rise to chief of the second-largest telecoms company in Europe after Deutsche Telekom, and the world's second-largest provider of high-speed DSL internet services after China Telecom, was preceded by several government roles. He served as general director for industrial strategy at the Ministry of Economy, before becoming general manager. He was named FT's chief executive in 2005 when Thierry Breton left to become finance minister.

CV AT A GLANCE... EDUCATION Ecole Polytechnique, Clermont-Ferrand; Ecole Nationale Superieure des Telecommunications, Paris CAREER 1967: Joined CNET of France Telecom 1988: Scientific and technical director at the Ministry of Research and Technology 1991: General manager of industrial strategy at the Ministry of Economy, Finance and Industry 1999: Ambassador-at-Large, special representative of France for International Investment and chief executive of the Invest in France Agency (AFII) 2003: Joined France Telecom as senior executive vice-president in charge of technologies, strategic partnerships and new usages 2005: Appointed chairman and CEO of France Telecom

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