One might assume that it would be an unfailing love of numbers that would inspire a career as the country CEO of an international bank. But not for Andrew Beane, who prefers to be known as Andy. Instead, Andy took an altogether alternative path to his destination in banking – via a degree in history, a stint at an internet company, and six months spent travelling around Latin America.
“I never believed I was good at maths when I was growing up,” Andy smiles. “I don’t think I could have imagined my future as CEO of a bank, but that’s exactly where my journey has led me. I guess my travels fostered a passion for adventure and new journeys and, when I was offered a job at HSBC after I returned to the UK after a gap year, I jumped at it. I was drawn to the company’s international character, values and brand.”
And with the travel bug having bitten, Andy began his soon-to-be-global career just a couple of years after joining the bank. Somewhat unbelievably, his first international posting was to Malta, and he spent nine months here in the pre-EU days when the island was honing its banking sector for accession. “My aunt is Maltese so I have always had a connection to the island,” Andy says. When Andy left Malta he couldn’t have known that his career would bring him back here – especially as there would be so much travel in-between. He returned to the UK, then moved to Chicago, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, London, Dubai, London again and, 13 years after his first foray here, back to Malta. Along the way, he of course rose through the ranks of one of the world’s best-known banks – sitting on the executive and risk committees of HSBC Europe among his many roles.
“The journey has been such a privilege,” Andy continues. “Being Chief of Staff to the CEO of HSBC Europe was particularly exciting, and it was a bit like attending an academy on how to be a bank CEO. The company had a trillion-dollar balance sheet and over 70,000 employees. It was a scale of business and complexity that I hadn’t experienced before, and it provided me with so much insight into our industry.
“But it also taught me a lot personally. I was doing that job in a period of time after the financial crisis, when the industry was reshaping and rehabilitating, and HSBC was organising itself for the future.”
Fast-forward two years and Andy says he didn’t have to think about things too hard when he was asked to take on the role of HSBC Malta CEO in November 2015. “I love the place, so it was an emotional decision as much as a rational one, and my wife Jenny and I were thrilled at the prospect of bringing our two young children to Malta too.”
“Not that it was easy securing the job! To become CEO of a bank in today’s world – the post-crisis world – you have to command the respect of the regulators, and that only followed a two-hour interview with the European Central Bank in Frankfurt to start with!”
Thankfully, it quickly became clear how seriously Andy takes his role. In fact, his greatest consciousness is HSBC’s responsibility to society here in Malta. “I see my role as serving others, not the other way around. I feel a great sense of accountability to the 250,000 customers that we provide services to, and to the 1,300 people and their families that work for us. I know that decisions we take affect people’s lives and there is nothing more significant that shapes my thinking.
“When you are country head of an international organisation like HSBC – which operates in over 60 countries – you hold the integrity of the brand in your hands and have an obligation to protect it. Brand values are vital in today’s world and every country CEO has a duty to protect HSBC’s reputation, both locally and for partner affiliates of the firm in the broader sense. I feel a very strong connection to the 10,000 shareholders we have in Malta and know that, roughly speaking, we support half of the country’s economy. If we do a good job we will support Malta to thrive, and if we don’t, it won’t. I don’t ever stop thinking about that.”
Andy shares his aims for the short to-medium term. “The last few years have required us to focus on embedding new standards of compliance and risk management in the bank, and we will be sustaining this vital work in 2019 and beyond,” he says. “But, for the most part, that period of change is complete, and we are happy with the results. Now it is time to consciously shift from one phase into another. I see one major part of my role as to create narratives and I believe there is probably nothing more important than communication. Our focus now, and for 2019, is to help the Maltese economy to grow and prosper by engaging with customers, businesses and individuals in a manner that works for them and us. I hope – following the phase of change we have just completed – that this chapter will see our customers and team enjoy the benefits of the hard work we have done. As a result, I have spent a good part of this year focusing with my immediate leadership team on our role and purpose as an organisation. They are fantastic and have embraced this opportunity. I truly believe that, when you create teams, your success is built on identifying people that are better at what they do than you are. We are wholeheartedly investing in the ‘why’; the ‘what’ is easy but the ‘why’ is so important. Team members may comply, but they will never thrive unless they understand and are motivated by the destination.”
And that very much aligns with what Andy believes HSBC will continue to achieve in the next year, and beyond. “From a company perspective I think we are in a very strong position. We will be on the right side of history when it comes to the compliance side of things. Moving forward, we will be known as an organisation that provides a balance of great service built on a foundation of the highest global standards of compliance. Personally, I have never been a person with a grand master plan. I have always believed that, if your centre of gravity is yourself, you will never succeed. My motivation is the people I have the privilege of working with, and they will continue to remain at the centre of both HSBC’s and my own journey in the years to come.”
MaltaChamber.org.mt is proud to be serialising MaltaCEOs 2019, a high-profile publication consisting of 50 in-depth interviews with leading CEOs in Malta. Celebrating the most influential business minds in the country, two different interviews will be featured on this business news portal week by week. MaltaCEOs was created by Content House Group in collaboration with the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise & Industry.