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July 8, 2022updated 19 Jul 2022 8:08am

Stuart Kirk resigns from HSBC after controversial climate speech

Stuart Kirk has quit his role as head of responsible investments at HSBC Global Asset Management, taking a swipe at his former employer and cancel culture in the process.

By Silvia Pellegrino

climate hsbc, stuart kirk
Away from HSBC: Stuart Kirk finally leaves the bank where he was the firm’s global head of responsible investments. (Photo by Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
  • After upsetting the most senior ranks of HSBC, Stuart Kirk, the bank’s head of responsible investing, announces his departure.
  • Kirk was originally suspended after stating climate change was not the big financial risk many say it is.
  • The controversial former Financial Times journalist hints he is working on a revolutionary new investment idea, but declines to say more.

Stuart Kirk has resigned from his position as global head of responsible investments at HSBC Global Asset Management following his controversial presentation that saw him suspended.

In May, Kirk gave a speech at a Financial Times conference, in which he claimed that the climate risk to investing had been overstated. During the controversial speech, Kirk said that policymakers were using scare tactics in relation to finances and climate, believing that central bankers were trying to “out-hyperbole the next guy”.

The banking giant suspended him in a matter of days following a huge public backlash.

Ex-FT journalist Kirk believed his position at HSBC’s asset management arm had become “unsustainable”. In a LinkedIn post announcing his resignation, he explained that he had enjoyed an “unblemished record” across a 27-year period, which featured roles in finance, journalism and consulting.

What did Stuart Kirk say in his resignation post?

Kirk said: “Investing is hard. So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ. But humanity’s best chance of success is open and honest debate. If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress.

“There is no place for virtue signalling in finance. Likewise, as a writer, researcher and investor, I know that words or trading shares can only achieve so much. True impact comes from the combination of real-world action and innovative solutions.”

However, in his resignation post, Kirk hinted at a new project that aims to provide “the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived” through the work of a “crack group of like-minded individuals”. There was a certainty in his post, in which he stated: “To be announced later this year, the first project will underline the central argument in my speech: that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities.

“Meanwhile, I will continue to prod with a sharp stick the nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and groupthink inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance.

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“Finally, can I take this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of people – from chief executives and congressmen to scientists and mom and pop investors – who contacted me from around the world offering their support and solidarity over the past two months.”

Following Kirk’s speech in May, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn denied in a LinkedIn post that Kirk’s views represented those of the HSBC family. He said they did not “reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC [Global] Asset Management”.

Quinn added: “HSBC is absolutely committed to a net-zero future. Given our global reach and capabilities we have an obligation to lead. I want HSBC to be a leader in supporting our clients, the finance sector and others through the massive transformation that’s needed to build a better future.”

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