HSBC's chief executive officer John Flint has left after 18 months on the job in an abrupt move, after the bank's board said it needed a change to meet the "increasingly complex and challenging global environment" it faced.
The bank said Flint had resigned "by mutual agreement with the board" and that it had appointed Noel Quinn, head of its commercial banking unit, as interim chief executive while it searches for a replacement. The departure follows better-than-expected second quarter results. but may be a signal of what is to follow at the lender.
Up to 2% of the bank's 237,685 employees could lose their jobs, a bank executive said on Monday, as HSBC flagged a worsening outlook for the global economy in its second-quarter results, the Wall Street Journal reports.
After almost 30 years with HSBC, I will be sad to leave but I do so looking forward to a new personal challenge, and confident that our people will continue to serve the bank’s stakeholders in the best possible way”
The departure comes as Europe's biggest bank is grappling with headwinds including an escalation of a trade war between China and the United States, an easing monetary policy cycle, unrest in the key Hong Kong market and uncertainty about Brexit.
Flint's exit, which a person familiar with the matter said was a result of differences over execution of his strategy, the Journal said. The FT adds that the bank's board of directors had become increasingly frustrated at the slow pace of change at HSBC since Flint took the top job in February 2018, according to two people briefed on the circumstances surrounding his departure.
Other reports suggested Flint paid the price for a souring in the bank's relations with China - its key growth market - possibly linked to the alleged use, by US officials, of internal bank documents in their detention of a senior Huawei executive last year.
Flint, who has been chief executive of the group since February 2018 and an employee at the bank since 1989, will also step down as a director and cease his day-to-day duties immediately.
Noel Quinn, chief executive of HSBC's global commercial banking arm, has been appointed as interim group chief executive during the search period for the new boss. Quinn, 57, previously served as regional head of commercial banking for Asia-Pacific in Hong Kong.
Mark Tucker, group chairman of HSBC, said: "On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Mr Flint for his personal commitment, dedication and the significant contribution that he has made over his long career at the bank.
"HSBC is in a strong position to deliver on its strategy. In the increasingly complex and challenging global environment in which the bank operates, the board believes a change is needed to meet the challenges that we face and to capture the very significant opportunities before us."
Flint said it had been a privilege to spend his entire career with HSBC and that he was grateful to his colleagues for their support during his career. He added: "I have agreed with the board that today's good interim results indicate that this is the right time for change, both for me and the bank.
"After almost 30 years with HSBC, I will be sad to leave but I do so looking forward to a new personal challenge, and confident that our people will continue to serve the bank's stakeholders in the best possible way."
HSBC made the surprise announcement as it reported a 15.8% rise in pre-tax profit to $12.4bn (£10.2bn) for the six months to 30 June. The bank stated its outlook had changed as interest rates in the US dollar bloc were now expected to fall rather than rise, and noted that geopolitical issues could impact a significant number of HSBC's major markets.