HSBC investors fear timetable to find new bosses is slipping

Mon Nov 7, 2016 2:45pm EST
 
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By Sinead Cruise and Simon Jessop

LONDON (Reuters) - Some major shareholders in HSBC HSBA.L want the bank to give greater reassurance on succession-planning for its chairman and chief executive, concerned that a timetable for replacing veterans Douglas Flint and Stuart Gulliver may be slipping.

Three of four top-20 shareholders interviewed by Reuters said they were worried a revamp of the bank's long-serving leadership had been knocked off course by several competing demands, denting hopes for a speedy refresh of HSBC's culture and strategy.

Europe's biggest bank said in March that it had begun searching for a new chairman and pledged to nominate a successor to 61-year old Douglas Flint during 2017. The new chairman would oversee selection of a successor to 57-year-old CEO Stuart Gulliver, who is expected to leave in 2018, it said.

But six months on, the investors said the lack of a progress update had started to cause concern, with some suggesting the board had been tied up with navigating the economic slowdown in Asia, investor consultations on its 2017 executive pay plans and the recent appointment of Clara Furse to chair its UK retail business.

They also said they felt that it was looking less likely that former Axa (AXAF.PA: Quote) boss Henri de Castries -- widely regarded as frontrunner for the chairman role when he joined HSBC's board in March -- would take the job.

They cited speculation among investors and market players that de Castries is keen to take up a role in French politics after the presidential election in the spring.

The three shareholders who expressed concern about the succession process declined to be named because they are in continuing dialogue with the company.

Their views suggest the bank's challenging task of finding a chairman and CEO within two years has become a source of concern among some of its biggest investors.   Continued...

 
FILE PHOTO - The HSBC bank logo is seen at their offices in the Canary Wharf financial district in London, Britain, March 3, 2016.  REUTERS/Reinhard Krause/File Photo