The bank said it would hand bonuses to top managers on the strength of the performance of the company.
Its investment banking growth in its core Asian markets offset a jump in bad debts in the Middle East.
The profit rose to $5.15bn (£3.43bn) from $4.6bn – just ahead of a forecast for $5.1bn.
The bank, which has been led by chief executive Peter Sands for just over three years and has fared better than most rivals during the downturn thanks to strong capital and liquidity, said 2010 had started "very strongly" and was ahead of a year ago.
However, last year the consumer arm was hit by the global economic slowdown, while its business in Korea has struggled. Its profit fell a fifth to $867m.
The company said in a statement: “The issue of bonuses has been much in the spotlight. In our geographic footprint, competition for talented employees is both international and red hot.
“We pay for good performance and we do not reward failure.”