HSBC pledges to stay in London

City A.M. Reporter
Top executives at HSBC Holdings Plc said there are no plans to move the bank's headquarters from London, as they gathered for their regular board meeting amid a surprise shake-up in the corporate suite of Europe's largest bank.

"We haven't reached a decision on whether to move the headquarters or not. If we ever come to that decision, that's the point at which we will evaluate," said incoming Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver, in reference to speculation sparked by the bank's decision to move senior management to Hong Kong earlier this year.

The move by outgoing CEO Michael Geoghegan and his team to Hong Kong was a smooth and widely covered transition, reflecting the bank's rising focus on Asia and fuelling beliefs that the bank would one day move its home base back to Greater China.

But when Chairman Stephen Green made his surprise announcement this month that he'd leave the company earlier than expected, his exit set off a scramble among top executives.

The normally staid bank seized headlines last week as it appointed a new chairman, chief executive and finance director after reports of internal bickering over the new roles.

Geoghegan and board director John Thorton were passed over for the chairman's role. Geoghegan, who media reports said threatened to quit if he didn't get the chairman job, has called HSBC's new leadership team "awesome."

"I am looking forward to moving back to Hong Kong," Gulliver, 51, said as he arrived at the bank's China headquarters for the meeting. "My appointment to group CEO does not change the mix of businesses within the HSBC Group," he said.

Green, who is to become Britain's trade and investment minister in January, said the bank was committed to building its China business, and lamented the leaking of news about the management shakeup, which made global headlines last week before the bank finally made an official announcement.

Green also echoed Gulliver's sentiments that there are no plans to move headquarters to Hong Kong.

Under the reshuffle, Green will be replaced as chairman by Douglas Flint, currently finance director, in addition to Gulliver's ascendance to CEO.

"Leakages are always a shame, but we have a very orderly process," said Green. "We have announced several appointments that are extremely good for the company. I am a shareholder and I will continued to be a shareholder."