HSBC was one of the first and most exposed banks to the U.S. housing crisis, but the recent bigger problems of leading rivals mean its shares have outperformed to make it the West's biggest bank.
HSBC shares have been knocked by the global financial crisis that has hit the sector, but their decline has been modest compared with big rivals such as Citigroup and it is now the only non-Chinese bank with a market value of over $200 billion (96 billion pounds).
HSBC shares dipped 1.6 percent on Monday to 892 pence, having lost 7 percent in the last month.
But during that time the DJ Stoxx European banking index .SX7P has fallen 10 percent and the DJ U.S. banks index .DJUSBK has shed 17 percent.
Bank shares have been hit by big write-offs related to U.S. subprime housing exposures and investment banking income, coupled with fears a credit crunch will crimp revenue from capital markets activity next year and beyond.
HSBC issued its first profit warning earlier this year due to its U.S. housing market exposure and subsequently took a $10.6 billion hit for bad debts, but it has benefited from its increasing focus on Asia and emerging markets.
More significant for its outperformance is its strong capital position, which often means its shares outperform peers in turbulent markets, analysts have said.
In contrast, shares in U.S. bank Citigroup have tumbled by a quarter in the past month. On Sunday Citi replaced its chairman and said it could write off billions more dollars in mortgage losses.
Citi's market value has fallen under $180 billion while Bank of America's value also dipped below $200 billion on Monday.
HSBC, with a market worth of near $220 billion, ranks only behind China's big three banks, according to Reuters data. ICBC, which listed a year ago, is the biggest bank with a market value of about $360 billion, followed by Construction Bank and Bank of China.
Activist investor Knight Vinke last month stepped up a campaign targeted at HSBC and said its shares had underperformed peers in the past 14 years. ( Reuters )