Bannister should tell all about HSBC - Editor’s Letter

 
David Hellier
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There are some questions about Bannister related to his stewardship of HSBC’s private banking operation
Clive Bannister is a very companionable dinner guest, rightly proud of his achievements in business and of his father Roger, who became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes.

He is just as proud, possibly more so, of his father’s achievement in going on from his success on the sports field to become a distinguished neurologist who published much groundbreaking academic research into the responses of the nervous system.

Bannister’s own career has been not without its high points either. He is currently chief executive of Phoenix, the closed life group, and is generally considered to have done a decent job there since taking over in February 2011.

One analyst from Canaccord Genuity said to me yesterday: “He’s done an excellent job and has delivered on almost every single target since he’s been running the group.” The City’s fondness for Bannister is probably not unrelated to the company’s share price, which has risen from around 600p in April 2013 to around 830p now.

Despite all this, there are some questions about Bannister related to his stewardship of HSBC’s private banking operation between 1998 and 2006, a period we now know, thanks to the theft of thousands of documents, was associated with lending to drug dealers and tax evaders.

With Howard Davies, a former regulator, as chair of the board, Phoenix needs to be seen to be doing everything above board. Davies must seek a full explanation from his chief executive.

Few in the City believe Bannister would have connived with any wrongdoing if he was aware of it. But the pressure is growing for him to explain to his board and the outside world what he did know, when he knew anything and whether he tried to do anything. My sense is he will get a fair hearing. But better to clear up the questions as soon as possible.

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