Staff Reporters
Jun 29, 2020

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Suresh Balaji, HSBC

From above-the-line campaigns to process innovations to work on behalf of gender equality and social responsibility, Suresh Balaji is a major force driving one the the world's pre-eminent financial-services brands.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2020: Suresh Balaji, HSBC
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Suresh Balaji

Regional head of marketing, Asia Pacific, wealth and personal banking; global head of marketing, insurance
Hong Kong

Suresh Balaji wears two very large hats for one of the world’s pre-eminent financial-services brands. He has served as marketing head for HSBC’s wealth and personal-banking divisions in APAC since 2015, and added global marketing leadership for the upstart HSBC Life brand when it launched in 2017. 

Under Balaji, HSBC’s marketing department keeps the pipeline full of new product advertising and other marketing initiatives. Balaji took HSBC Life from concept to a top position in the Hong Kong market in a brief span of time, in part thanks to endearing ads such as a story of a dad determined to learn some ballet moves (although our critic didn’t particularly care for the brand’s launch campaign). 

So far in 2020, Balaji has led the launch of new brand platforms in both Malaysia and Australia. In Malaysia, the work focuses on financial literacy, based on research showing that a large percentage of the younger population needs some basic education. The Australia work, which asks potential customers to ‘Join the bigger picture’ has achieved high digital ad recall, helped accelerate SEM results and led to a double-digit increase in applications. 2019 saw the launch of HSBC’s Jade, a bespoke offering targeting high-net-worth individuals in China, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

Balaji’s accomplishments are by no means limited to above-the-line marketing. He has also led process innovations. For example, he has created a hub that hosts 15 media-agency staffers who work alongside his in-house data teams to drive digital sales by fine-tuning tactics on a rapid-iteration basis. In many markets, according to Balaji, more than 50% of sales for certain product lines come through digital media. He has also led a drive to train the marketing staff on agile development methodology.

Under Balaji’s tenure, HSBC has burnished its reputation as a company that believes in diversity and backs that up with action. Balaji himself co-chairs the Male Allies Leadership Council of Hong Kong, and his team is 70% women across Asia. The company refused to blink when bigots spoke out against its decision to festoon its iconic lions in pride rainbows in 2016—a moment that stands out as a watershed. 

Prior to the 15 years he has spent with HSBC—which has taken him from Mumbai to Dubai to London en route to Hong Kong—Balaji held leadership roles in strategy, sales, product, media and advertising with GlaxoSmithKline, United Breweries, Contract India and Young & Rubicam. He remains active beyond the confines of the HSBC HQ as well, as an advisory board member of the Shared Value Project in Hong Kong, the CMO Council, and the Ehrenberg Bass Institute at the University of South Australia. 

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

2 hours ago

I feel therefore I do: Why ads should appeal to the ...

Advertising’s obsession with tech can come at the expense of emotional engagement—and that can lead to homogeneous, boring ads, writes the Uncommon Creative Studio founder.

3 hours ago

Vancouver wants to be Sydney’s cool Canadian friend

The Australian targeted campaign by Destination Vancouver aims to make the city a must visit rather than a stop over on the way to Whistler.

3 hours ago

Melissa Selcher departs LinkedIn after eight years

Selcher was chief marketing and communications officer at the platform.

3 hours ago

The Financial Times appoints lead creative agency ...

The Brooklyn Brothers previously created hero campaigns for the FT.