Downing Street silent on 'bank chief for minister' claims

Downing Street this morning declined to confirm reports that HSBC bank chairman Stephen Green is to be appointed a minister in David Cameron’s Government.

BBC business editor Robert Peston reported that Mr Green is to stand down from his post at the banking giant in order to take up the role of Trade Minister, with an announcement due this afternoon.

Mr Green, 61, has been chairman of HSBC since 2005, having previously served as group chief executive. HSBC was one of the few major banks to emerge from the recent financial crisis relatively unscathed, and was not forced to seek a Government bail-out like some of its rivals.

An ordained Church of England minister, he has spoken publicly since the financial crisis about the need for the banking sector to rediscover its ethics and make corporate social responsibility a priority.

Mr Cameron has been unable to fill the post of Trade Minister in the months since the creation of the coalition Government, having failed to persuade former banker Lord (Mervyn) Davies to stay on in the post he was given by Gordon Brown.

Reports suggest that a number of business figures turned down approaches to fill the position, which has an important role in “banging the drum” for British exporters overseas.

A Downing Street spokesman declined to confirm whether an appointment to the post would be made today or to discuss the identity of the new minister.

It first emerged that Mr Green was planning his departure from the bank in May, as part of a succession strategy which will see HSBC end a long-running tradition of appointing an executive chairman at the top.

It was suggested his replacement will be hired as a non-executive, with incoming remuneration committee head John Thornton tipped to be a front-runner.

As well as Mr Thornton, the former president of Goldman Sachs, Simon Robertson, HSBC senior independent non-executive director, has also been tipped as a potential candidate to become chairman.

Mr Green, who joined the bank in 1982, was HSBC chief executive for three years before he was appointed as chairman. The Oxford-educated banker is married with two daughters.

As chairman of the British Bankers’ Association, Mr Green has acted as a figurehead for the industry, criticising the culture of excessive bonuses.

He is in line to replace Lord Davies, the former Standard Chartered boss, who served in the final 18 months of the Labour government.

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