David Prosser: Gulliver's pre-match team talk at HSBC

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The Independent Online

Outlook Sensible football fans (though often not the chairman) know that changing the manager very rarely transforms the team's fortunes, at least in the short term. The appointment might prompt a brief improvement in form, as the players seek to impress their new boss, but it isn't long before all the problems that did for the old manager resurface. Worse, when the new regime takes a wrecking ball to what came before, results can get worse before they get better.

All of which is to say that Stuart Gulliver's new strategy for HSBC is not going to see the bank's share price break out of the sideways range in which it has been trading for much of the past decade straight away.

We have been here before. In 1998, the bank's new chairman, Sir John Bond, launched the Managing for Value plan and went on a value-crushing acquisition splurge including the pricey buy of US private bank Republic and the disastrous $15bn purchase of US subprime lender Household in 2002.

Five years later, in came John Studzinski at HSBC's investment bank. Given a free rein to hire expensive bankers, Mr Studzinski's term of office coincided with a big increase in cost base. Then, on arrival in 2006, Michael Geoghegan and Stephen Green, chief executive and chairman respectively, unveiled plans to "join up" HSBC to drive growth.

Now we have Mr Gulliver's masterplan, which is basically to focus firepower on businesses and geographies where HSBC has critical mass (a backhanded way of saying the 'world's local bank' strategy was a mistake).

Given time, this plan may pay dividends. But as football managers very often discover, getting rid of expensive mistakes from the past – much of Household in HSBC's case – is easier said than done. And overhauling and scaling back the back may distract management from results.

HSBC's new boss set out a convincing gameplan in articulate fashion yesterday – the harder job now is to execute it.

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