HSBC Appoints Caretaker Noel Quinn as Permanent Chief

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(Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc’s search for a new chief ended where it began: with its caretaker CEO Noel Quinn.

The bank on Tuesday said Quinn would become its permanent boss, after seven months as interim leader. The board had struggled to secure an external candidate while trying to respond to an increasingly treacherous global economy that’s been rocked by the impact of coronavirus.

HSBC had approached former Citigroup Inc. banker James Forese to gauge his interest in the CEO post, at least the third high-profile outside financier to be approached, people familiar with the matter have said. Other candidates whose names had surfaced to run Europe’s biggest bank by market value include UniCredit SpA’s Jean Pierre Mustier and former Citigroup executive Stephen Bird.

Quinn, 58, is taking on the top job at a difficult period for global banks, whose customers are being pummeled by the effects of the coronavirus and whose margins will feel the pinch of ensuing rate cuts. He has been in the interim role since August, when Chairman Mark Tucker ousted John Flint over his concern he was no longer the right person to lead the bank.

“In the last few months Noel has worked closely with the board to agree the key actions required to build and enhance performance on a sustainable basis,” Tucker said.

Quinn will be paid a base salary of 1.27 million pounds ($1.5 million) as well as 1.8 million pounds in fixed allowances. He has the opportunity to earn an annual bonus of up to 2.7 million pounds, and a long-term award of almost 4.1 million pounds. Flint earned a total of 4.58 million pounds in 2018, when he served about 10 months as CEO.

Sweeping Changes

Unlike several of his predecessors, Quinn isn’t a product of HSBC’s elite international manager cadre that traditionally produces its leaders. He attended Birmingham Polytechnic in central England before training as an accountant. His first job was digging holes on a building site and his banking career began at Forward Trust, a financing and leasing unit of Midland Bank, the U.K. lender that HSBC bought in 1992. He spent the next two decades working his way up the commercial-banking business, spending much of his time in Asia, before emerging at the top of the unit in late 2015.

Since taking the reins on a temporary basis, Quinn has overhauled the ranks of top executives, installing new risk and and investment-banking chiefs, before unveiling a revamp at last month’s results that looked set to cut about 35,000 jobs and numerous underperforming businesses.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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