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HSBC pins hopes on Borat and IPO-pimping ATMs

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Forget the good, old US of A. HSBC wants to bet on places like Kazakhstan for its financial future.

Ray O'Brien, an HSBC IT investment exec, unveiled his Borat-inspired plan to rule the world last night during an Intel-funded gig at Tate Modern. The grizzled financial markets in the US and Western Europe do little to inspire financial types in search of the next big thing and high margin deals. So, HSBC plans to milk the developing world for all it can by setting up trading markets and installing things such as ATM machines that let the world's poor take part in IPOs (initial public offerings).

"2007 marked the end of the dominance of the US in our markets," O'Brien said, shocking the Yanks in the crowd.

O'Brien later asked us not to print that statement as it would upset his coworkers in the US, but, hey, he made the remark in front of 200 people, and we don't have the skills yet to erase all of their minds. During a private chat, he qualified the US crack, saying that everyone expects a recession to hit the US, making it a rather grim market.

HSBC's enthusiasm for the developing world proves robust.

"I am the biggest bank in Kazakhstan," O'Brien said, holding back the urge to thump chest like a tie-wearing Gorilla.

The financial set believes that a variety of new money-swapping models will take place in the so-called emerging markets.

"2008 is all about the New World," O'Brien said, adding also that, "Mobile banking will be the biggest thing to hit this industry in the next five to ten years."

It's very difficult, for example, for workers in places such as Mexico, India and Africa to hold onto their cash or travel around with it out of fear of thievery. Mobile banking and micro-payments, however, will allow the poor to set up bank accounts, keep their money and pay for things without terror.

Even more intriguing are HSBC's ideas around flash ATMs.

"We are now doing IPOs on ATMs," O'Brien said.

As it turned out, O'Brien couldn't actually name one country where HSBC is doing IPOs on ATMs when we chatted later, but he still likes the idea.

Basically, a country such as Saudia Arabia could promote the IPO of a new business to citizens rather than foreign banks. Slap in your card, type in your pin and then start gambling on the latest and greatest new business.

"This would keep capital in the actual countries," O'Brien told us.

Sure, it's fun to talk about tapping into the world's poor for better margins, but in the end, the big boys are really eyeing China's deepening pockets more than anything else.

"It's all about Asia and China," O'Brien said. "Isn't China the world's biggest economy?"

Er, well, we don't think so, no. But we're just journalists not financial wizards. ®

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