People Moves

HSBC's Quinn Now Permanent Chief Executive

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor, 19 March 2020

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The man who has been the interim CEO since last summer is now in the role full-time. His big task is to restructure and reduce certain risks against a backdrop of volatile markets.

This week, HSBC announced that Noel Quinn is to become the permanent chief executive, having been the interim boss since John Flint stood down last August. Quinn has already signalled his ambition to restructure one of the world’s largest banks with a series of changes. 

But that task, which involves shrinking headcount and cutting exposures in parts of its operations, became much harder after equity markets tanked when the COVID-19 pandemic broke. Since the start of January, the MSCI World Index of shares of developed countries, has fallen by 24.6 per cent (in dollars). HSBC, like a lot of its peers, has de-risked part of its balance sheet and bolstered capital buffers since the 2008 crash but, even so, the fast market moves will be testing.

In recent weeks Quinn and his colleagues have unveiled a package of restructuring moves, concerned that performance in some business areas where return on equity was not matching the cost of capital, was unacceptable. Investment banking exposures in Europe and the US are being trimmed; the global private bank has been folded into a new structure to simplify its operations. 

Whatever lies in store, the Hong Kong/UK-listed bank is certainly fulsome about Quinn. 

“Noel has proven to be the outstanding candidate to take on a role permanently that he has performed impressively on an interim basis since August 2019. He is a strong and proven leader with extensive global banking expertise, deep client relationships and the energy and skill to drive the business forward at pace. In the last few months Noel has worked closely with the board to agree the key actions required to build and enhance performance on a sustainable basis. He has shown a great understanding of HSBC, the challenges we face and the significant opportunities for growth that lie ahead.”

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