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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

HSBC Executive Suspended Over Climate Change Comments

HSBC Asset Management’s global head of responsible investing has been suspended over comments he made at a recent conference about the financial industry’s overemphasis on climate change.

Stuart Kirk, global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management, has been suspended, pending an internal investigation into a presentation he made at a conference last week, according to a «Financial Times» report citing unnamed sources. 

Kirk spoke at the «FT» event – «Moral Money Summit» – with a presentation titled «Why investors need not worry about climate risk», slamming the financial industry’s overemphasis on climate change over other more pressing issues. 

«I work at a bank that is being attacked by crypto, we’ve got regulators in the US trying to stop us, we’ve got the China problem, we’ve got a housing crisis looming, we’ve got interest rates going up, we’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time and time again looking at something that is going to happen in 20 or 30 years hence,» said Kirk said, according to a separate «Bloomberg» report. «The proportionality is completely out of whack.» 

«Always Some Nut Job»

During the conference, Kirk also accused central bankers of trying to «out-hyperbole» each other on climate change risks, noting that «there was always some nut job telling me about the end of the world» throughout his 25-year career, comparing the environmental issue with the Y2K bug that was incorrectly predicted to be a life-changing computer glitch.

«Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,» Kirk wrote in one of the presentation slides at the event.

Post-Event Disapproval

HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn – alongside wealth and personal banking head Nuno Matos – was quick to distance himself over the weekend on social media.

«I do not agree — at all — with the remarks made at [this] week’s FT Moral Money Summit They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management,» said Quinn in a LinkedIn post. «We have a lot of work to do, and I am determined that our team won’t be distracted by last week’s comments.»

«In complete agreement with Noel Quinn — the transition to net zero is of [utmost] importance to us and we will strive for ways to help our clients on this journey,» Matos added.

Pre-Event Approval?

Interestingly, the theme and content of Kirk’s presentation were already agreed upon internally before he spoke last Thursday, according to the «FT» report.

Even the title of the presentation had been agreed on internally two months ago before being publicly displayed online in promotional content for the event.


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