HSBC in the UAE


HSBC’s presence in what is now the UAE dates back to 1946 when The Imperial Bank of Iran, a forerunner of HSBC Bank Middle East, opened its doors to the merchants and citizens of the Emirates.

Following its withdrawal from Iran, the bank was renamed the British Bank of The Middle East (BBME).

In 1959 BBME was acquired by The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.

The bank played a key role in the establishment of a banking sector across the MENA region.


The 1940s was a period of great change with the decline of operations in Iran (which closed in 1952) and expansion into the Arabian Peninsula and the Levant.

The bank was a leader in financial services in the states that are now referred to as the Gulf Cooperation Council, opening branches in Kuwait (1942), Bahrain (1944), the area now known as the UAE (1946), Oman (Muscat 1948) and Saudi Arabia (Al Khobar and Jeddah 1950).

Branches were also opened in the cities of the Fertile Crescent: Beirut (1946), Damascus (1947), Tripoli (1948), Amman (1949) and Aleppo (1951).

Regional expansion

By 1959, when the bank was acquired by the Group, it had added more offices in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, Qatar, Tunisia, Morocco and UAE.

During the 1960s and 1970s the bank left Syria, Iraq, South Yemen and Libya after nationalisation of the banking sectors.

In 1978, the bank’s business in Saudi Arabia was transferred to a new bank, the Saudi British Bank, where the Group took a 40 per cent share. The Group also took a 40 per cent share in the Hong Kong Egyptian Bank S.A.E, which was established in 1982.

Modern structure

In 1994, the bank's head office was transferred to Jersey and in 1999 it was renamed HSBC Bank Middle East (HBME). In 2001, the Group’s shareholding in Egypt increased to 94.5 per cent. In June 2016, the bank confirmed that it had transferred its place of incorporation and head office from Jersey to the Dubai International Financial Centre. As a result of the transfer, HBME is now lead-regulated by the Dubai Financial Services Authority, but remains locally regulated in each of the countries in which it operates by the country’s Central Bank and its other regulators.

HSBC Bank Middle East Limited - Board of Directors

  • David Eldon (Chairman)
  • Georges Elhedery
  • John Bartlett
  • Chris D Spooner
  • Raja Al Gurg
  • David Dew
  • William Patey
For details about HSBC’s global operations, Group board members and financial results, go to our corporate website

Financial information

For regional reports and accounts, including those for HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd, please visit the Subsidiary company reporting page  of our global corporate website.

HSBC Group history timeline


Hong Kong harbour, Chinese artist, early 1860s

Staff in Fuzhou, China, 1887

Portrait of Thomas Jackson, around 1890

Chinese railway bond certificate, 1907

Staff in military uniform, First World War

Hong Kong building, 1965

Prison camp diary of HSBC staff member Max Haymes, 1943

Hong Kong garment factory, around 1950

Persian banknote, early 20th century

UK cash machine, around 1970

HSBC office, New York, 1999

HSBC lion, London, present day

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The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited opened in Hong Kong on 3 March 1865 and in Shanghai one month later. It was the first locally owned bank to operate according to Scottish banking principles.

By 1875 HSBC was present in seven countries across Asia, Europe and North America. It financed the export of tea and silk from China, cotton and jute from India, sugar from the Philippines and rice and silk from Vietnam.

By 1900, after strong growth under Chief Manager Thomas Jackson, the bank had expanded into 16 countries and was financing trade across the world. Bullion, exchange and merchant banking were important features of the bank’s business.

In the early 20th century, HSBC widened the scope of its activities in Asia. It issued loans to national governments to finance modernisation and infrastructure projects such as railway building.

The First World War brought disruption and dislocation to many businesses. By the 1920s, however, Asia was beginning to prosper again as new industries developed and trade in commodities such as rubber and tin soared.

The 1930s brought recession and turmoil to many markets. Nonetheless, HSBC asked architects Palmer and Turner to design a new head office in Hong Kong: “Please build us the best bank in the world.” The cutting-edge art deco building opened in 1935.

The bank faced one of its most challenging times during the Second World War. Staff in Asia showed huge courage in the face of adversity. Many became prisoners of war. Only the London, Indian and US branches remained in full operation.

At the end of the war, HSBC took on a key role in the reconstruction of the Hong Kong economy. Its support helped established manufacturers as well as newcomers to Hong Kong grow their business.

By the 1970s the bank had expanded through acquisition. HSBC bought Mercantile Bank and The British Bank of the Middle East in 1959. In 1972 it formed a merchant banking arm, extending its range of services.

In the 1980s HSBC bought Marine Midland Bank in the US. In 1992, the newly created HSBC Holdings plc made a recommended offer for full ownership of the UK’s Midland Bank. Following the acquisition, HSBC moved its headquarters to London.

In 1998, the bank announced it would adopt a unified brand, using HSBC and the hexagon symbol everywhere it operated.

HSBC remains committed to connecting customers to opportunities. We aim to be where the growth is, enabling businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping people to fulfil their hopes and realise their ambitions.

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