EghtesadOnline: HSBC ousted John Flint as chief executive after just 18 months in a shock move the chairman of Europe’s biggest bank said was needed to speed up progress on priority areas such as the turnaround of its US business.
The CEO’s exit was a result of differences of opinion with chairman Mark Tucker over Flint’s more tentative approach to cutting expenses and setting revenue targets for senior managers to boost profit growth, a person familiar with the matter said.
HSBC disclosed the departure of Flint, 51, alongside its half-year results on Monday as it forecast a gloomier outlook for its business, with an escalation of a trade war between China and the United States, an easing monetary policy cycle, unrest in its key Hong Kong market and Brexit, Euronews reported.
HSBC, which makes more than 80% of its profit in Asia, said that its global commercial banking unit head Noel Quinn will be interim chief executive, Financial Tribune reported.
Shares in HSBC, which fell nearly 14% during Flint’s tenure, were down 2% in London, even though it reported a 16% rise in profit and a revealed a share buyback of up to $1 billion.
Flint, who previously ran London-headquartered HSBC’s retail and wealth management business, was chosen as CEO in February 2018 in the first major decision by Tucker, who told Reuters, “It’s the right time for change, and doing it clearly and decisively from a position of strength is very important.”
A key difference with Tucker was over Flint’s efforts to turn around HSBC’s under-performing US business, the person familiar with the matter said. HSBC declined to comment.
Tucker, who became HSBC’s first externally appointed chairman when he joined HSBC’s board in late 2017, said that the search for a new CEO, which will include both internal and external candidates, could take up to a year.
Flint’s exit also followed weeks of adverse Chinese media coverage over HSBC’s role in the arrest of Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou.
China’s Global Times ran an editorial on Friday saying it ‘feels heat on Huawei CFO case’, suggesting HSBC had erred in cooperating with US authorities and it could face penalties.
“Our business operations in China continue as normal,” Tucker told analysts on a conference call when asked whether the bank faced blacklisting in China over the Huawei situation.