Various headquarters and branch buildings of The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation and the HSBC Group, into which the Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation has evolved, feature a pair of lion sculptures. The HSBC lionshave become distinctive landmarks in their own right in Hong Kong and Shanghai respectively, with a further pair to be found in London.
The first set of lion sculptures were commissioned for the rebuilt HSBC Building on the Bund in Shanghai, opened in 1923. Chief Manager, Alexander Stephen, writing in 1921 about the lions then being sculpted, that the inspiration for his decision to order the lions came from the imposing lions outside the Venetian Arsenal.
Cast by J W Singer & Sons in the English town of Frome, to a design by Henry Poole RA, these lions had quickly become part of the Shanghai scene, and passers-by would affectionately stroke the lions in the belief that power and money would rub off on them. They became known as Stephen and Stitt: an in-joke. Stephen was named for A G Stephen, formerly Manager Shanghai, and in 1923 the Chief Manager of HSBC, and G H Stitt, the then Manager Shanghai. Stephen is depicted roaring, Stitt quiescent, and again insiders said that this represented the characters of these two famous bankers.
The Hong Kong lions are also called Stephen and Stitt, and the Hong Kong Stephen has bullet or shrapnel scars in its left hind-quarters dating from the fighting in the Battle of Hong Kong.
After the re-organisation of the HSBC business into the present-day HSBC Group, the Group's headquarters were placed in London. The new headquarters building, located at 8 Canada Square, in the Canary Wharf development of the Isle of Dogs in London, opened in 2002. A pair of lions were again commissioned for the new headquarters. This pair was a close replica of the Hong Kong lions, even including the signatures of W.W. Wagstaff on the sculpture. The casting was completed at Bronze Age Foundry in nearby Limehouse, directed by Zambian-born New Zealand sculptor Mark Kennedy. However, Kennedy was asked not to reproduce the "war wounds" of the Hong Kong lions in the copies: they had to earn their own battle scars.