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HSBC's Chief Executive To Retire; Pre-Tax Profit Dips

Tom Burroughes

30 April 2024

chief executive Noel Quinn is to retire from the post after five years, a fact that has taken bank-watchers by surprise. The UK/Hong Kong-listed bank also announced first-quarter financial results today.

The lender said it has started a formal process to find Quinn’s successor, and was looking at internal and external candidates. 

Quinn’s tenure coincided with HSBC’s pivot towards Asia as the primary source of its earnings and the lockdowns in Hong Kong, mainland China and much of the world as Covid-19 erupted in 2020. He has also been able to fend off investor demands for the bank to be broken up. Most recently, HSBC sold operations in Argentina and Canada.

“The board would like to pay tribute to Noel’s leadership of the company,” chair Mark Tucker said in a statement. “Noel has had a long and distinguished 37-year career at the bank and we are very grateful for his significant contribution to the group over many years.”

Quinn said of his impending departure: "After an intense five years, it is now the right time for me to get a better balance between my personal and business life.”

The CEO has been at the lender since 1987; he was the chief executive for an interim period before being formally appointed to the role in March 2020.

Quinn will remain in his post until his successor starts and has agreed to remain available until the end of his notice period, which expires in April next year.

On a reported basis, HSBC logged a first-quarter pre-tax profit of $12.65 billion, down from $12.886 billion a year earlier. Diluted earnings per share rose to $0.54 per share from $0.52 per share. Its net interest margin slipped to 1.63 per cent from 1.69 per cent. 

The bank’s Common Equity Tier 1 ratio – a standard measure of a lender’s capital buffer – stood at 15.2 per cent at the end of March this year, up from 14.7 per cent at the end of March 2023.

Net operating income rose to $20.032 billion in Q1 2024, from $19.739 billion a year before. 

In the wealth and personal banking segment, which includes HSBC’s private bank, revenues fell to $7.164 billion from $9.013 billion. Pre-tax profit, on a constant currency basis, fell to $3.181 billion from $5.324 billion, the bank said. 

The profit drop was caused by the non-recurrence of a $2.0 billion reversal in Q1 2023 of an impairment relating to the planned sale of HSBC’s retail banking operations in France, although it was subsequently reinstated in the fourth quarter of 2023. The sale completed on 1 January this year.

Global private banking revenue was $100 million, rising 16 per cent on a year earlier “due to strong performance in brokerage and trading in Asia,” it said.