HSBC bank picks John Flint as chief executive


LONDON — British banking giant HSBC on Thursday said it had chosen John Flint, its head of retail banking and wealth management, to succeed Stuart Gulliver as chief executive, who is retiring.

Flint begins his new role on Feb. 21 after Gulliver had already announced his intention to step down after more than seven years, during which time he has overseen a huge reduction in staff numbers and operations amid a troubled period for the bank and sector as a whole.

In a company statement, Flint said he was "humbled by the responsibility and enormously excited by the opportunity" to lead the Asia-focused bank, as it grapples also with the uncertainty thrown up by Brexit.

The 49-year-old Briton added: "The bank is very well-positioned for the future but we must continue to innovate and accelerate the pace of change required to meet the expectations of our shareholders, customers, employees and society at large."

Recently-appointed chairman Mark Tucker said Flint had "a great understanding and regard for HSBC's heritage". HSBC, founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, sees its current focus firmly in Asia, although it has been based in Britain since 1992.

After some strong profitable years under Gulliver, HSBC earnings plunged in 2016 on huge writedowns and restructuring charges. Profits rebounded in the first half of this year. The bank had in 2015 set out a plan to ax 50,000 jobs and exit non-core markets, as it also navigated a series of damaging probes into HSBC operations.

Gulliver has meanwhile said that HSBC would likely switch 1,000 jobs to Paris from London owing to Britain's eventual departure from the European Union. Flint joined HSBC in 1989 and spent the first 14 years with the bank working in Asia.

A married father of two, he will be paid a salary of £1.2 million per year ($1.6 million, 1.3 million euros) but could earn many millions more based on the company's performance, the lender said in the statement.

"Stuart has led HSBC through a challenging and difficult period with great energy and commitment and successfully reshaped the business strategy of the bank," Tucker said of Gulliver on Thursday.

But in 2015, HSBC was forced to apologize for "unacceptable" failings at its Swiss division following allegations that the unit helped rich clients hide billions from the taxman.

Also during Gulliver's time at the helm, HSBC was fined along with other global banks by US and British regulators for attempting to rig foreign exchange markets. HSBC employs more than 230,000 staff worldwide. — AFP