HSBC faces shareholder criticism

INVESTORS in HSBC, still reeling from one of the most poorly-handled succession processes in the bank’s history, have highlighted pressing concerns over the appointment of finance director Douglas Flint as chairman.

Flint’s appointment to steward the bank has sparked fears over the extent to which the former executive can be truly objective in the future, given that he has not come in to chair the bank from outside it.

One shareholder said: “There’s an elephant in the room and that’s Flint. The chairman must be able to challenge decisions and hold the board to account, especially at difficult times, and it’s hard to see how Flint can do that having worked so closely in the past with Stuart Gulliver.”

Gulliver, HSBC’s head of investment banking, replaces Michael Geoghegan as chief executive at the end of the year. Though he and Flint are widely respected in the City, with a combined 45 years of HSBC experience behind them, investors have also voiced discontent over the way HSBC’s board, led by senior independent non-executive Sir Simon Robertson, handled the appointments.

It now looks as if the former Goldman Sachs veteran John Thornton will also be leaving the bank after missing out on the chairman’s role. Thornton would be missed for his experience in south- east Asia in particular.