The bank's chief executive officer Michael Geoghegan had told the Financial Times that he believed a second economic downturn was on the way.
"I'm not as convinced we're through the worst as others are," he said.
"We have to be very careful."
He said he was inclined to believe more economic pain was on the way as the world was heading toward a W-shaped slump, that would see another plunge into recession before the global markets would truly recover.
But HSBC Holdings chairman Stephen Green then told Bloomberg Television that although there was good reason to remain cautious, he believed the world economy has already found bottom and financial markets were returning from the abyss.
HSBC's position was complicated further by a speech from another one of its executives earlier this week.
Chris Meares, chief executive officer of HSBC's global private banking division, told the Reuters Global Wealth Management summit on Monday that the company was increasing its banking workforce with the outlook for private banking business improving.
By Claire Archer