The global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management revealed he had resigned today after sparking a furore in May with a speech that played down the risk of climate change and slammed “shrill, partisan” climate warnings.
Stuart Kirk, who was put on paid leave by HSBC in May after the speech, attacked “group-think” and “sloppy logic” of sustainable finance in a LinkedIn post today, and said HSBC’s behaviour towards him had made his position “unsustainable”.
“There is no place for virtue signalling in finance,” he wrote, adding that “true impact comes from the combination of real-world action and innovative solutions.”
“Investing is hard. So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ. But humanity’s best chance of success is open and honest debate. If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress,” he said.
Kirk said he would continue to “prod with a sharp stick” the “mainstream bubble” of sustainable finance after leaving his post.
The comments made by Kirk at the FT’s Moral Money summit in May sparked a major global debate about the nature of climate and ESG investing, with some claiming they had revealed the empty nature of much of the sustainable finance industry.
HSBC bosses scrambled to distance themselves from the claims, with chief exec Noel Quinn saying they did not represent the views of the firm.
In his post today, Kirk said he would now be looking to launch a new asset class this year.
“I’ve been gathering a crack group of like-minded individuals together to deliver what is arguably the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived,” he said.
“A whole new asset class. Sounds fanciful – but I am not one for hyperbole, as viewers of my presentation know well.”