An HSBC bank branch
An HSBC bank branch - 
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Doug Krizner: An American activist investor has launched a campaign against one of the world's biggest banks. Eric Knight is calling for big changes at the British-based HSBC. From London, Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: Eric Knight, who's based in New York, has written to HSBC calling for a fundamental review of strategy.

His precise demands have not been made public, but his call comes at a tricky time for the bank.

HSBC, like all major banks is currently embroiled in the liquidity crunch and it has been burned directly by the U.S. subprime mortgage debacle. That triggered the bank's first ever profits warning.

The bank's shares are underperforming those of its peers and, says analyst Mark Durling, it is certainly a potential target for a break-up.

Mark Durling: HSBC is basically a make-up of over 50 banks globally, each one itself, a reasonably-sized market-cap bank. So it would be very exciting for shareholders if there was a break-up.

Eric Knight is thought to hold less than 1 percent of HSBC, but has a successful track record as an activist. He forced major changes at the Anglo-Dutch oil giant Shell.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.