HSBC has reportedly suspended a senior banker within its ranks who raised eyebrows when he accused central bankers and other high-ranking officials of exaggerating the financial risks associated with climate change while delivering a speech at an event last week.
Last week, HSBC’s head of responsible investment, Stuart Kirk, said: “There’s always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”.
The London-based banker’s role involves considering the possible impacts of investments on environmental, social and governance issues.
The bank’s top brass quickly dissociated themselves from Mr Kirk’s remarks, with HSBC boss Noel Quinn posting on LinkedIn that he did not “at all” agree with the comments.
The Financial Times, which first reported Mr Kirk’s comments, also reported that the latter has been suspended pending an investigation into the speech.
Pressure mounted for HSBC to outright fire the senior banker over his speech, which included a presentation entitled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk”.
He wrote, on a slide in the presentation he was giving: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong”, taking issue with the warnings being sent out by central banks and global authorities like the United Nations for what he described as a lack of proportionality when compared to more near-term concerns.
“We’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time and time again looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years, the proportionality is completely out of whack,” he said.
His comments immediately came in for criticism, forcing HSBC Asset Management’s CEO, Nicolas Moreau, to respond that they did not represent the company’s views. A spokesperson for Mr Moreau told Reuters: “HSBC regards climate change as one of the most serious emergencies facing the planet.”
Around €600 billion are managed by HSBC Asset Management, according to the company website.
Jeanne Martin, campaign manager at responsible investment NGO Share Action, tweeted: “This should raise red flags to any clients of HSBC that care about net-zero.”
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