HSBC faces backlash as it admits performance has stalled

HSBC executives have faced angry shareholders at today’s annual meeting over poor returns and excessive board pay.

Europe's largest bank, which has started a cost-cutting drive to make bigger profits, faced a backlash from its investors over top executive rewards as a fifth refused to back its remuneration report.

Many shareholders also rounded on the bank for its mediocre shareholder returns, which Flint called disappointing and inadequate.

Shareholder rejected HSBC’s remuneration plans despite months of lobbying by HSBC and leaks of details to the press.

"How greedy is this board of directors?" asked private shareholder Michael Mason-Mahon, as others called on HSBC to take a lead in moving away from "wildly excessive remuneration at board level".

Investor wrath at lacklustre returns prompted assurances from Flint that things would improve. "We are committed to making it better," Flint said.

HSBC also faced uncomfortable questions over its relationship with the Libyan government and leader Mummar Gaddafi, after reports surfaced this week saying HSBC held assets from the country's oil fund.

Flint argued that Libya had been rehabilitated by the international community in 2006, which explained why it had enjoyed access to the international financial system again, before being cast aside this year.

He refused to be drawn on whether HSBC had any connection to the Libyan government.