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HSBC suspends banker due to comments about climate change

HSBC has suspended a top executive pending an internal investigation into a presentation he gave at an event last week, according to people with knowledge of the process.

Stuart Kirk, global head of responsible investment at the bank’s asset management department, accused central bankers and politicians of overestimating the economic risk of climate change in an attempt to “over-hyperbole the next guy”.

Over the weekend, CEOs Noel Quinn and Nuno Matos, head of HSBC’s wealth and personal banking business, tried to distance themselves from the comments in social media posts.

While the bank and its top executives have criticized the speech given at a Financial Times conference, the topic and content were agreed internally before Kirk spoke on Thursday, according to people with knowledge of the event̵[ads1]7;s planning.

The title of the presentation – “Why investors do not have to worry about climate risk” – was agreed two months earlier and published on the website ahead of the event.

“I do not agree – at all – with the remarks made at [this] this week’s FT Moral Money Summit, ”Quinn said on LinkedIn this weekend. “They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of HSBC’s senior management or HSBC Asset Management.”

Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC, said: “We have a lot of work to do and I am determined that our team will not be distracted by last week’s comments” © Wei Leng Tay / Bloomberg

He added: “We have a lot of work to do and I am determined that our team will not be distracted by last week’s comments.”

Matos, whose division includes the asset management business, said: “In complete agreement with Noel Quinn – the transition to net zero is the largest [sic] importance to us, and we will strive for ways to help our customers on this journey. ”

HSBC has come under pressure in recent years from activists and shareholders for its role in financing companies with significant greenhouse gas emissions.

Kirk’s comments on climate change – which drew anger from environmentalists – were particularly embarrassing for the bank when it sponsored the conference and was promoted on the event’s website as a strategic partner.

HSBC declined to comment, while Kirk did not respond at the time of publication.

Stuart Kirk

Stuart Kirk’s comments on climate change angered environmentalists © Claudio Papapietro

During the speech, Kirk said that throughout his 25-year career in the financial industry, “there was always a crazy job that told me about the end of the world,” comparing the climate crisis to the Y2K error that predicted a widespread computer error at the turn of the millennium.

“Unjustified, shrill, party-political, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,” he wrote in a slide accompanying the presentation.

Last month, the FT revealed that the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK watchdog, had issued a recommendation that it believe HSBC had misled customers into two ads by selectively promoting its green initiatives, while omitting information about the continued funding of companies with significant greenhouse gases. emissions.

A year ago, the bank was pressured on its climate commitments by a group of investors, but averted a shareholder uprising at the annual meeting by strengthening its plans in line with international agreements to limit global warming.

However, the speed with which HSBC and other lenders have promised to trade, especially when it comes to financing coal power and mining, has disappointed some activists and ESG funds. They continue to push for change.

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