Its controversial acquisition of US mortgage provider Household in 2003 was unpopular with shareholders, who saw it as a departure from HSBC's strategy of investing in growth markets in the developing world. Household, by contrast, concentrates on providing mortgages to low-income borrowers. But after 17 rises in interest rates, the US housing market has become tough and many of these poorer borrowers have started to default on their debts, just as the equity on their properties falls in value. The caution of shareholders turned out to be correct. The Household crisis led to HSBC's profits warning earlier this month.