HSBC has ousted John Flint as chief executive after just 18 months. Mark Tucker, the chairman of Europe’s biggest bank, said this was needed to hasten progress on priority areas, such as the turnaround of its US business.
The CEO’s exit is understood to be a result of differences of opinion with Mr Tucker over Mr Flint’s more tentative approach to cutting expenses and setting revenue targets for senior managers.
HSBC disclosed the departure of Mr Flint alongside its half-year results, as it forecast a gloomier outlook for its business, with an escalation of a trade war between China and the US, an easing monetary policy cycle, unrest in its key Hong Kong market, and Brexit.
HSBC, which makes more than 80% of its profit in Asia, said that its global commercial banking unit head, Noel Quinn, would be interim chief executive.
Mr Flint, who previously ran London-headquartered HSBC’s retail and wealth-management business, was chosen as CEO in February of 2018, in what was the first major decision by Mr Tucker, who said:
It’s the right time for change, and doing it clearly and decisively, from a position of strength, is very important.
A key difference with Mr Tucker was Mr Flint’s efforts to turn around HSBC’s under-performing US business.
Mr Tucker, who became HSBC’s first externally appointed chairman, when he joined HSBC’s board in late 2017, said that the search for a new CEO, which will include both internal and external candidates, could take up to a year.
Mr Flint’s exit also followed weeks of adverse Chinese media coverage over HSBC’s role in the arrest of Huawei chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou.
“Our business operations in China continue as normal,” Mr Tucker told analysts on a conference call, when asked whether the bank faced blacklisting in China over the Huawei situation.
HSBC executives, at the time of Mr Flint’s appointment, saw him as a safe pair of hands and as a natural successor to his mentor and previous CEO, Stuart Gulliver.