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The HSBC Global Pulse Survey Brings Global Perspective to Personal Investing, Lifestyle and Other Consumer Trends

22 April 2010

Results of a New International Research Study Fielded in 11 Cities Around the World are Released Today by HSBC, 'The world's local bank'

New York, NY — As the world becomes increasingly integrated and growing numbers of people traverse the globe for work or pleasure, HSBC Bank USA, N.A., the U.S. banking unit of HSBC Group, one of the world's largest financial services organizations, has analyzed the business, spending and investing habits of today's global citizens.

The HSBC Global Pulse survey discovered that while American respondents may have been the most impacted financially as a result of the downturn, in contrast to their international peers, they have been among the most hesitant to reallocate their assets. However, there is one thing they do have in common with other global citizens: the same top three financial worries are keeping them up at night (taxes, wealth preservation and retirement).

Despite suffering real financial losses, all respondents share a savvy in having maintained most of their pre-downturn lifestyles, continuing to enjoy what they deem affordable luxuries such as dining out. Additionally, the value of money is also a powerful motivator that transcends boundaries for this globally-oriented set. When reflecting on motivations for working, compensation is ranked number one around the world.


"One of the questions people will be looking to answer as we emerge from the global economic downturn is what are the lessons learned," said Andrew Ireland, Head of Premier and Wealth, HSBC Bank USA, N.A. "The HSBC Global Pulse survey revealed that, despite the seismic shifts in the global marketplace, Americans have made little to no changes to how their personal portfolios are allocated since 2008. As we look ahead to 2010 and beyond, investors should consider re-evaluating their approach to money management, taking full advantage of the global insights and knowledge that can be gleaned from their peers around the world and financial institutions with a global perspective."

Global Pulse uncovered that, relative to their peers, affluent Americans took the largest losses on their portfolios. Looking back from 2008 to the present, more than half of the respondents in the U.S. (56%) said they lost money, despite the fact that 75% of them claimed to be either very or extremely knowledgeable about their personal financial matters. Even this knowledge didn't protect them: their financial losses made them the biggest financial losers in this survey, as compared to their peers around the world. Only 19% of respondents in Hong Kong, 28% in Sao Paulo and 37% in Sydney reported losses.

Yet despite these losses, respondents in America say they haven't taken any steps to change their investment strategy since 2008: their asset allocations remain virtually identical. Reflecting on these findings, Ireland commented: "American respondents seemingly have not touched their portfolio allocations since 2008, even though the U.S. markets have experienced the greatest sea-changes since then."

Looking more closely, the survey also revealed significant differences in asset allocation between countries, with Americans and Canadians more heavily weighted towards mutual funds, while respondents in Hong Kong, London and Sao Paulo were more willing to invest in real estate, collectables and alternatives.  Ireland continued, "It is interesting to note that Americans' allocations are quite different than their peers around the world whose assets better weathered the storm."


If finances are causing you anxiety, you are not alone. "Around the world, the same financial concerns keep us up at night: taxes, retirement and losses in our portfolios," said Ireland. Despite the fact that respondents are financially successful, they are still focussed on the same issues that trouble their peers around the world.

Top three global financial concerns:

  1. Taxes - 82%
  2. Preservation of wealth - 81%
  3. Retirement - 81%


On the Job

Despite the fact that the global citizens surveyed all have very real financial worries and many suffered significant portfolio losses over the course of the past year, they display remarkable similarities when it comes to their job satisfaction. Only 2% of the global citizens surveyed are unemployed, and almost nine in ten (84%) are satisfied with their current jobs. When you consider that overall, the respondents indicate they spend more time working than they would ideally like to, this result is even more striking.

More than half of the respondents (54%) say their ideal work/life balance would be to dedicate just 50% to 60% of their time to work, yet a majority are working more, spending 60% to 80% of their time on the job.

HSBC Global Pulse survey respondents have achieved success in the workplace, with both job security and satisfaction, despite the challenging employment market. They see their jobs more than just a means to a pay check. They are highly motivated by the intrinsic rewards that intellectual challenge and personal development offer and have successfully navigated their careers to find fulfilment," said Ireland.

When asked how different aspects of a job motivate them, compensation ranked the number one motivator across the respondent pool (96% of respondents said it's important), but intellectual challenge was immediately behind (95%), followed closely by personal development (92%). There were slight regional variations when the aggregate group was broken down: the U.S., Hong Kong, Paris and Sao Paulo ranked compensation as their top motivator, while London, Sydney and Toronto ranked intellectual challenge higher.

Living the Lifestyle Choices

Outside of the office, these global citizens have found a way to preserve what they deemed as important to their lifestyle, despite an environment in which many have been cutting back on non-essential spending. Whether in the U.S. or abroad, Global Pulse respondents are still spending on items they value most: food, wine and dining out.

  • 72% said their consumption of wine has not changed in the past year, and 67% said their spending on wine has not changed in the past year due to the economy
  • 73% still dine out nearly once a week and nearly 2 out of 5 respondents (39%) still eat at restaurants at least three times per week

Despite their willingness to spend on discretional items, Global Pulse respondents are still careful with their money, as demonstrated by their rating of "value/price" as the most important criteria when purchasing wine. They are willing to spend more to get more: 40% of respondents spend more than $20 per bottle of wine for a meal at home and 48% spend more than $30 per bottle when they give wine as a gift.

Their pursuit of quality food follows suit: 79% of respondents are willing to spend more for locally grown products because they believe they are getting the freshest products while 62% said that they will spend more for organic foods. Furthermore, 82% of global citizens are willing to spend more money on well-known brands.

Note to editors


(1) The HSBC Global Pulse was conducted online in February and March 2010 with 2044 respondents (54% male, 46% female) in 11 locations worldwide, including 200 participants per market in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Washington DC; 121 in Toronto; 94 in Vancouver; 228 in London; 199 in Hong Kong; and 201 in Sao Paulo and Sydney.

All respondents are 25- 64 years old, college educated (43% with graduate degrees), have investable assets of at least $100,000 (48% over $500,000) and are financial decision makers in their households (96%). The survey was conducted in respondents' native language.

About the sample

HSBC Global Pulse defines what it means to be global through a majority of responses reporting shared behaviors and attitudes. This cohort group possesses attributes that allow them to easily navigate today's diverse yet interconnected world.

  • 94% believe that it's important for them to be executing financial transactions even if they're in another country
  • 93% say people from other cultures tell them they are successful in navigating that culture
  • 92% say it is important for them to have a basic understanding of more than one language
  • 88% say they have friends from all over the world
  • 86% think it is important to get the perspective on international news organizations on a regular basis
  • 77% think as themselves as citizens of the world
  • 63% travel internationally at least twice a year
About HSBC Bank USA, N.A.

HSBC Bank USA, N.A. has more than 470 bank branches throughout the United States, with approximately 380 in New York State. The Bank also operates in Florida, California, Washington, D.C. Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon, Washington, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut and Virginia.  HSBC Bank USA, N.A. is the principal subsidiary of HSBC USA Inc., an indirectly-held, wholly-owned subsidiary of HSBC North America Holdings Inc. HSBC USA Inc. is one of the nation's largest bank holding companies by assets. Deposits in the United States are offered by HSBC Bank USA, N.A. Member FDIC.

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