First MPF, then the world. David Humphreys spent last year as CEO of HSBC Provident Fund Services in Hong Kong where he spearheaded the bank's launch into the Mandatory Provident Fund scheme. The experience required an integrated effort from HSBC's bank, insurance, trust and fund management arms, and convinced him that HSBC Group needed to develop a similarly integrated strategy for capturing retirement assets globally. So now he is responsible for thinking this through.

"Within 10 to 15 years, one-third of the OECD countries' population will have retired," he says. "Any financial institution with ambitions to be a global player must have a strategy to service that market. It will be one of our major growth areas."

No easy task this. Retirement services covers a multitude of financial activities, and HSBC has strengths û and weaknesses û that vary around the globe.

"Who would we consider our competitors?" he wonders. "Certainly we would have a hard time trying to compete against some well established mutual fund providers in the United States, or against large insurance companies in Germany. But we have a powerful distribution network throughout Asia. We have a strong banking franchise in the UK, including a very successful on-line bank. In France we have CCF, a bank with a strong domestic franchise. We have a strong presence in India. We are building a brand name in Australia, which is fast becoming the retirement destination of choice for Japanese and other East Asians. We have centres of expertise on every continent."

With such a woolly mission, Humphreys realizes he will need to zero in on priorities. For this year, he says, that includes "getting to understand the China market" and finding ways to improve distribution globally.

CF Choi, the head of HSBC Insurance in Hong Kong, has since assumed responsibility for HSBC's MPF business.