British multinational universal bank and financial services holding company, HSBC has announced the suspension of its global head of responsible investing at the bank’s asset management division, Stuart Kirk over comments he reportedly made on climate change.
Kirk was reported to have accused central bankers and policymakers of overstating the financial risks of climate change to “out-hyperbole the next guy”. His comments, which drew anger from environmentalists, were said to be especially embarrassing for the bank as it sponsored the conference and was promoted on the event’s website as a strategic partner.
Although the bank and its senior executives have criticised the speech made at a Financial Times conference, its theme and content are reported to have been agreed upon internally before Kirk spoke on Thursday.
The title of the presentation — ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk’ — had been agreed two months earlier and publicised on the website in the run-up to the event.
Head of HSBC’s wealth and personal banking business, Noel Quinn and Nuno Matos is said to have distanced themselves from the comments in social media posts.
“I do not agree — at all — with the remarks made at [this] week’s FT Moral Money Summit,” Quinn said. “They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management.”
Speaking further, he said, “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 his own reaction, Matos said, “Incomplete 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.”
In recent years, HSBC has come under pressure from campaigners and shareholders for its role in financing companies with substantial greenhouse gas emissions.
Story was adapted from Financial Times.