HSBC Founds Prime Brokerage For Brave New Hedge Fund World

Jul 23 2009 | 2:28am ET

HSBC is getting into the prime brokerage business, sort of.

The financial services giant has set up a prime services division as it seeks to make a name for itself in prime brokerage. But unlike most of its competitors, HSBC’s effort is trying to predict what the hedge fund landscape will demand of prime brokers in the brave new post-Bernard Madoff and Lehman Brothers world.

HSBC will not offer the same levels of leverage as other prime brokers, and will hold assets in segregated accounts, a practice which would avoid the unpleasantness of asset freezes due to a catastrophe like those currently suffered by some of Lehman’s prime brokerage clients, Financial News reports.

“What we are offering is somewhat different to the traditional prime brokerage service, but we feel it is in line with what the market is looking for at the moment,” the new team’s head, Cian Burke, said. “Clients are looking for a safe haven for their assets and banks like HSBC can benefit from this flight to quality.”

Burke’s 50-strong team—which is expected to grow to meet demand—will bring together the bank’s custody and global markets divisions.

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