HSBC suspends chief investment officer who described climate warnings as ‘extreme’ | Banking Services

HSBC has suspended a major banker after he cited warnings of the climate crisis as “baseless” and “severe” During a speech at the conference he has since been denounced by the lender’s CEO.

Stuart Kirk, who has been HSBC’s chief investment officer since last July, will remain suspended until the bank completes an internal investigation into the matter.

HSBC came under pressure to fire Kirk after he gave a presentation in London titled ‘Why Investors Don’t Need to Worry About Climate Risk’, in which he highlighted the dangers of major floods, and complained that he had to spend time ‘looking for something that will happen in the 20th or 30th’. year “.

HSBC declined to comment on Kirk’s comment, which was first reported by the Financial Times. Kirk did not respond to requests for comment sent via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Kirk’s controversial presentation included slides saying “unsupportive, sharp, partisan, self-serving, appalling warnings are always wrong,” while referring to comments made by officials at the United Nations and the Bank of England, who have tried to sound the alarm about Global warming. .

“Humans have been great at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergency, and we will continue to do so,” Kirk told attendees at the Financial Times’ Moral Money conference on Thursday. “Who cares if Miami Six meters under water in 100 years? Amsterdam has been underwater over six meters over the ages and this is a really beautiful place.”

His comments sparked public relations controversy for the bank, which has struggled to improve its green credentials, despite pledges to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

That prompted chiefs, including HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn, to denounce Kirk’s comments, insisting they did not reflect the bank’s views on the climate crisis.

“I disagree – not at all – with the remarks made at the FT Moral Money Summit last week,” Quinn said in a LinkedIn post on Saturday. “It does not align with HSBC’s strategy and does not reflect the views of HSBC’s senior leadership or HSBC Asset Management. Our ambition is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in its transition to net zero.”

“We have a lot of work to do, and I’m determined our team won’t be distracted by last week’s comments,” Quinn added.

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Climate activists welcomed Kirk’s comment but said HSBC has questions to answer about how well Kirk’s views are known or supported within the bank.

“Kirk may be on his way out, but this opens up a new can of worms for HSBC,” said Boo O’Sullivan, one of the bank’s leading advocates for our future campaign. “The bank must now explain how such offensive and inaccurate comments were signed off, to what extent other senior executives share Kirk’s views, and what kind of culture HSBC is cultivating has allowed the comments to pass unchallenged.

“On a larger scale, this is another stain on HSBC’s climate reputation that has been difficult to polish recently,” O’Sullivan said. “Investors, customers and regulators should question and examine the bank’s climate promises, including its upcoming oil and gas policy, not forgetting that HSBC faces potential regulator action on greenwashing.”

Kirk, a former editor of the Financial Times’ Lex Column, has been named Head of Responsible Investment In July 2021, which put him in charge of a team responsible for analyzing environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks that could impact the asset management arm’s investments. His team was also responsible for helping develop new green products for customers.

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