Leader of the pack

View from the Boardroom | Mon 10 Oct | Author – Business & Finance
alan duffy
Alan Duffy, CEO, Ireland, HSBC

Alan Duffy discusses his leadership technique and how the HSBC CEO defines success.

HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations, serving more than 45 million customers worldwide.

For more than 30 years, the business has continued to grow in Ireland and 450 people are now employed to provide a wide range of services to clients.

Last May, the appointment of Alan Duffy as the new CEO for Ireland was announced. Duffy is responsible for HSBC’s corporate banking, securities services and insurance businesses in Ireland.

He joined HSBC Ireland in July 2006 to help establish its corporate banking business and has maintained his role as head of Corporate Banking as part of his new remit as country CEO.


Duffy’s focus as CEO is continuing to build HSBC’s credentials and to also attract further investment in Ireland through the Securities Services business. He believes in investing in people for the long-term. “It is about shaping the future not just about managing tasks on a day-to-day basis,” says the country CEO.

“I also believe that the higher you rise in an organisation, the more people will watch everything you say and do. Therefore, role modelling good behaviour is a vital leadership skill.”

Whilst growth is important, it is equally important to get the right balance between growing the business and focusing on streamlining to continually deliver efficiencies

When asked about how important the team at HSBC Ireland is to the success of the company, Duffy is staunch in his appraisal. “The team is critical. When I think of team I do not differentiate between ‘front office’ and ‘back office’. You are either serving the client or serving the teams that serve the client and therefore it is vital to ensure that our whole team delivers a positive customer experience locally and in global locations where our clients are building their businesses. We continually promote a positive ‘speak up’ culture within our organisation so we can promote best practice and learn from errors.”

As CEO, Duffy uses a more holistic approach to motivate his team. He states: “I am a big believer in furthering education as a motivating tool, not only in learning the more technical aspects of the job, but also training in vital skills such as building and fostering internal and external networks, interpersonal skills, developing empathy and listening.”


The financial services industry has faced stern challenges over recent years. The general trust that the financial services industry once enjoyed and took for granted no longer exists. The financial crisis and revelations of poor behaviour by many financial institutions globally has driven regulators to impose and banks to adopt much higher standards of doing business. HSBC have been quick to react.

“New technologies are already impacting the retail banking sector with the fintech space rapidly accelerating. We have invested significantly in our compliance function and we have publicly committed to globally adopting the highest level of compliance standards within the industry,” comments Duffy.

“We are large investors in fintech and have recently announced some exciting developments within our trade finance business deploying block-chain technology.”


But how does Alan Duffy define success? And what drives him to succeed? He comments: “From a leadership perspective, I define success as fostering an environment that enables people to really fulfil their potential and grow. Personally, it is about never losing sight of the bigger picture and the absolute priority of family and friends.”


Looking to the future, Duffy wants to ensure that HSBC remains a financing partner of choice for its clients locally and internationally. “We are privileged to have many of Ireland’s leading internationally active companies as our clients in addition to large multinational firms who have chosen Ireland as a great place to do business,” the CEO states.

“Whilst growth is important, it is equally important to get the right balance between growing the business and focusing on streamlining to continually deliver efficiencies and also to protect our business and clients from the ever present threat of financial crime,” concludes Duffy.