HSBC's Gulliver to Step Down in Two Years, Sunday Times Says

  • Aberdeen says would look for continuity if new CEO appointed
  • Lender holds shareholders meeting in Hong Kong on Monday

Stuart Gulliver, chief executive officer of HSBC Holdings Plc, will stand down in two years as the U.K. bank replaces its top leadership, according to the Sunday Times.

The lender has started compiling a list of internal candidates and will also consider external applicants, the London-based newspaper said, citing people it didn’t identify. The bank plans to appoint a new chairman first to help choose the next CEO, the Sunday Times reported, after HSBC said last month that it plans to nominate a successor to Chairman Douglas Flint next year.

Stuart Gulliver
Stuart Gulliver
Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg

HSBC is revamping the board after coming under pressure from shareholders unhappy about its performance. Since 2011, Gulliver and Flint have announced more than 87,000 job cuts, exited more than 80 businesses and reduced the bank’s sprawling global footprint to 71 countries and territories from 88.

The bank declined to comment on the Sunday Times report. The lender will hold a shareholders meeting in Hong Kong on Monday afternoon.

The two executives are the longest-serving duo at the helm of a major European bank. Scotland-born Flint, 60, joined as finance director of Europe’s largest bank in 1995 before being named executive chairman in 2010. Senior independent director Rachel Lomax is leading the search for Flint’s replacement.

Oxford-educated Gulliver, 57, started at HSBC in 1980 and excelled as a trader, rising through the ranks to become CEO in 2011. Before his appointment as group leader, he was chairman of HSBC’s Europe, Middle East and global businesses, and chief executive of global banking and markets, according to a profile on the bank’s website. He has held roles in cities including London, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Hugh Young, Asia managing director of Aberdeen Asset Management Plc, one of HSBC’s top 10 shareholders, said he was aware of the Sunday Times report but didn’t know if it was true. When contacted by Bloomberg News in Singapore on Monday, Young said he would expect any successor to continue the efforts that Gulliver has started.

Good Job

For HSBC, Gulliver has done “a lot of tidying up, just bringing it back to the Asian roots,” said Young. “He has done a bloody good job in such awful circumstances.”

The bank hired Axa SA CEO Henri de Castries and former Diageo Plc head Paul Walsh as independent non-executive directors in November, replacing long-standing members of the board that are stepping down. De Castries is tipped to be Flint’s likely successor, the Sunday Times reported last month, without saying where it got the information.

HSBC shares in Hong Kong fell 0.8 percent as of 10 a.m. local time on Monday, extending their loss to 21 percent this year. The benchmark Hang Seng Index dropped 3.6 percent in that time.

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