HSBC reported adjusted profit before tax of $5.4 billion for the first quarter, down 18 percent on the same period last year.
First-quarter pretax profit before adjustments came in at $6.1 billion, down from $7.1 billion in the first three months of 2015 but beating the expectations of analysts polled by HSBC, who forecast pretax profit of $4.3 billion, according to Reuters.
Adjusted revenue dropped 4 percent to $13.9 billion, in what Europe's largest bank by assets called "challenging market conditions."
Despite the difficult environment, HSBC's performance was "resilient", the bank's chief executive Stuart Gulliver said in a release that accompanied the earnings release.
Earnings per share came in at 20 cents, down from 26 cents per share in the same period last year. HSBC held its first-quarter dividend in line at 10 cents per share.
Gulliver noted that market uncertainty had led to extreme volatility in January and February, which hit revenues in the markets and wealth management businesses.
But he said its diversified model helped to cushion it against the impact, citing continued strength in commercial banking and increased market share in the debt capital markets, Chinese mergers and acquisitions, and syndicated lending.
"Profits were down against a very strong first quarter of 2015, but we increased market share in many of the product areas that are critical to our strategy," Gulliver said.
In June 2015 HSBC announced a radical overhaul designed to cut costs by as much as $5 billion within two years, in order to boost profitability and shareholder returns. The cost-cutting program has included layoffs, a hiring freeze and a halt on pay rises.
"A combination of tight cost management and the increasing impact of our cost-saving programmes reduced operating expenses relative to the fourth quarter of 2015," Gulliver said.
CMB International Securities strategist Daniel So told CNBC's "Capital Connection" that he expected the impact of the cuts to be gradual.
"In terms of staff or other cost cutting measures, I think the effects will gradually show in the results in the next few quarters," he said.