Yesterday HSBC spelt out the damage it had suffered from its foray into lending to US consumers with poor and patchy credit records. Financial Times

Its North American division, which includes Household, set aside $12.2bn (£6.15bn) for bad loans last year, up 79 per cent on 2006, as the meltdown in the subprime mortgage market spread to other areas of its business. The increase meant that HSBC’s North American business, which accounts for a fifth of the bank’s assets, made pre-tax profits of just $91m, down from $4.7bn.

Yet HSBC yesterday told a tale of two banks. In spite of the calamity in the US and the turmoil in the credit markets, it continues to thrive in Europe, Asia and Latin America. As a result, pre-tax profits rose 10% to reach a record $24bn.

Stephen Green, Sir John’s successor, yesterday hailed the bank’s geographic diversity and its past investments in emerging markets as a source of strength.