History Wall

Company: HSBC
Sector: Finance
Impact: Corporate Indentity; Brand knowledge & marketing; Employee induction & engagement
Sponsor: Group Chief Executive
Timescale: 3 months – for initial selection and scanning of images [2001-2002]

Project brief

Working in collaboration with designer Thomas Heatherwick Studio, the company archives team was tasked with creating an art installation for the foyer of HSBC’s Foster and Associates head office building at Canary Wharf. The project objective was to:

  • build stature and credibility for HSBC
  • demonstrate that HSBC is a global brand with a unique experience – a multi-local approach that is very different from the standardising, homogenising approach of other multi-nationals
  • showcase and celebrate the diverse background of the Group – its continuous growth and development through amalgamation and acquisition since 1762
We believe the single most important source of competitive advantage for a commercial organisation is its corporate character. The HSBC History Wall is the visual representation of our character.
Sir John Bond, Chairman 2003
The History Wall demonstrates how a major multinational can value and showcase heritage in a modern and innovative setting.
Tina Staples, Company Archivist 2004

Business archives used by the team

  • 4000 images from HSBC’s photographic collection. These include UK and international images of staff, customers, places, documents, ledgers, artefacts, banknotes, illustrations from publications etc. covering the whole range of the Group’s business activity

Outcomes and business benefit

  • An award-winning art installation entitled The History Wall has been created. Against a 230m2 glass backdrop, over 4000 images from the company archives have been reproduced on aluminium flags in a visual representation of the company’s history.
  • The huge number and diversity of images perfectly illustrates the company’s brand message ”The World’s Local Bank”.
  • Understanding the History Wall is a requisite part of new employee learning, and employees are required as part of their performance contract to demonstrate the values and character of HSBC (illustrated by the History Wall).
  • In response to the project success the chief executive commissioned a commemorative book (published 2003) that is used as an additional PR and internal communications asset.
  • The History Wall impacts the built environment by exuding character and humanity throughout the imposing head office foyer, making it a ‘warmer’ environment for visitors and staff.
  • The images (and captions) provide rare and intriguing glimpses of the financial sector and give social and cultural context to the business.