HSBC bank executive who downplayed climate change quits – blames ‘cancel culture’

Topline

A senior HSBC executive who was suspended after publicly downplaying the significance of climate change and saying the risk it poses to the market had been greatly exaggerated announced on Thursday that he was resigning from his post, blaming the “culture cancellation” for making his role at the bank untenable.

Highlights

Stuart Kirk, the former chief investment officer at HSBC Asset Management, came under fire in May and was suspended after saying investors should ‘not be worried about climate risk’ and its effect on markets financiers, adding that throughout his career “there is always crazy work that tells me about the end of the world.

On Thursday, Kirk announced on LinkedIn that he had resigned from his position over his treatment since making the comments, blaming “cancellation culture” and writing that “there is no room for signaling virtue in finance”.

If companies believe in fostering diversity and an environment where speaking up is encouraged, they “must lead by example,” Kirk wrote, adding that “cancelling culture destroys wealth and progress”.

Kirk said he is gathering a group of “like-minded people” with the intention of announcing “what is arguably the greatest sustainable investing idea ever conceived” later this year, and will continue to challenge “absurdity, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and groupthink”. “in finance.

crucial quote

“Who cares if Miami is six meters under water in 100 years? Kirk said in May, adding that “Amsterdam has been six meters under water for ages and it’s a really nice place. We will face it. »

Tangent

If the world does not limit its use of fossil fuels, the effects of climate change could reduce global annual economic output by up to $23 trillion by 2050, according to a 2021 report by Swiss Re, one of of the world’s largest companies. reinsurers.

Key Context

During the Moral Money Summit event organized by the FinancialTimes in May, Kirk compared reactions to the climate crisis to fear of the “Y2K bug”, and said the effects of climate change would not be as severe as experts claim. He also criticized figures in the financial world who advocate for climate action, such as former Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. A slide on Kirk’s presentation claimed that “unsubstantiated, strident, partisan, selfish, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.” HSBC immediately distanced itself from Kirk’s comments. CEO Noel Quinn wrote in a May post on LinkedIn that Kirk’s views were “inconsistent” with HSBC’s strategy and that the bank aims to be the driving force behind the “massive transformation needed to build a better future.” Kirk received some support for his comments, including from U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) Who wrote a letter to Quinn saying the financial industry’s “unconventional environmental ideology” raises concerns about the “sensitivity of the groupthink industry.

Further reading

‘Who cares if Miami is 6 meters under water in 100 years?’: Incendiary climate comments from HSBC executive (Forbes)

Teresa H. Sadler