October 12, 2017 / 10:48 AM / a year ago

HSBC picks John Flint for CEO hotseat

LONDON, Oct 12 (IFR) - HSBC Holdings said John Flint, who has run its retail and wealth management business for almost five years, will replace Stuart Gulliver as chief executive in February.

Gulliver had already announced his intention to step down during 2018, and Flint was widely tipped to be his replacement.

HSBC said on Thursday Flint will take over on February 21. It will mean there are two new men at the top of Europe’s biggest bank, after Mark Tucker joined as chairman in October.

Flint, 49, is seen as a safe pair of hands who has a relatively low profile but deep experience in most areas of HSBC, including crucially in Asia and in the investment bank.

He acknowledged he needs to build on Gulliver’s attempt to simplify the bank and improve its profitability. “The bank is very well-positioned for the future but we must continue to innovate and accelerate the pace of change required to meet the expectations of our shareholders, customers, employees and society at large,” Flint said in a statement.

Gulliver has been CEO since 2011 and sold dozens of businesses, put more emphasis on Asia and tried to cut costs and improve compliance in an effort to lift performance. But the bank’s returns remain below target and there are concerns about lacklustre revenue growth.

Flint has been with HSBC for 28 years and run its retail banking and wealth management business - the bank’s largest division - since the start of 2013.

He is no relation to Douglas Flint, who stepped down as chairman at the end of September.

Analysts said an internal choice for CEO was expected after Tucker was picked as chairman, the first outside appointment in the bank’s 152-year history. Analysts said given the complexity of HSBC, having two outsiders running the bank would have been a challenge.

Flint joined the bank in October 1989 and has worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Bahrain, the US and the UK.

His first 14 years were spent in Asia in the investment bank’s global markets business, before moving back to Europe in 2004. Two years later he was appointed group treasurer, responsible for balance sheet management. In 2008 he added the roles of deputy head of global markets and head of global markets for Europe, Middle East and Africa.

In 2010 Flint was named head of asset management and at the start of 2011 was named chief of staff to the CEO and head of strategy and planning, before being given the role of running retail banking and wealth management almost five years ago.

Much of what he has done at RBWM has mirrored the group’s strategy - getting out of markets where it lacked scale, cutting complexity, improving control and compliance and targeting wealthier customers. RBWM has 36m customers and had adjusted revenues of US$18.9bn last year (38% of the group) and made an adjusted pre-tax profit of US$5.3bn.

HSBC said after stepping down as CEO, Gulliver will continue to advise the bank until he formally retires on October 11 2018. (Reporting by Steve Slater)

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