HSBC has suspended a top executive pending an internal investigation into a presentation he made at an event last week, according to people familiar with the proceedings.

Stuart Kirk, Global Head of Responsible Investing in the Bank’s Asset Management Division, accused central bankers and policymakers of overestimating the financial risks of climate change in an attempt to “hit the next man.”

Over the weekend, CEO Noel Quinn and Nuno Matos, head of wealth and personal banking at HSBC, tried to steer clear of comments on social media posts.

While the bank and its top executives criticized the speech at the Financial Times conference, its topic and content were agreed upon internally before Kirk spoke on Thursday, according to people familiar with the planning of the event.

Presentation Title – ‘Why Investors Don’t Need to Worry About Climate Risks’ – Agreed two months ago and posted on the website in the run up to the event.

“I do not agree, at all, with the statements made at [this] ‘FT Moral Money Summit,’” Quinn said on LinkedIn this weekend. “It does not align with HSBC’s strategy and does not reflect the views of HSBC senior leadership or HSBC Asset Management.”

“We have a lot of work to do and I am determined that our team will not be distracted by last week’s comments,” said Noel Quinn, chief executive of HSBC.© Wei Leng Tay/Bloomberg

“We have a lot of work to do and I am determined that our team will not be distracted by last week’s comments,” he added.

Matos, whose division includes the asset management business, said: “In full agreement with Noel Quinn, going to net zero is above and beyond [sic] important to us and we will strive to find ways to help our customers on this trip. «

HSBC has come under pressure in recent years from activists and shareholders for its role in financing companies with large greenhouse gas emissions.

Kirk’s comments on climate change, which angered environmentalists, were particularly embarrassing for the bank because it sponsored the conference and was promoted on the event’s website as a strategic partner.

HSBC declined to comment, while Kirk had not responded as of press time.

During the speech, Kirk said that throughout his 25-year career in the financial industry “there have always been some jobs that speak to me of the end of the world,” comparing the climate crisis to the 2000 glitch that predicted widespread malfunction. of computers at the turn of the millennium.

“Unfounded, outrageous, partisan, self-serving and appalling warnings are always false,” he wrote in a slide accompanying his show.

Last month, the FT revealed that the Advertising Standards Authority, the UK watchdog, had drafted a recommendation finding that HSBC misled customers in two advertisements by selectively promoting its green initiatives, while omitting information about its ongoing funding of companies with large greenhouse gas emissions.

A year ago, it was The bank has been pressed on its climate commitments by a group of investors, but it shook shareholders at its annual meeting by promoting its plans in line with international agreements to limit global warming.

However, the speed with which HSBC and other lenders have pledged to act, particularly in terms of financing coal and mining power, disappointed some ESG campaigners and funds. They keep pushing for change.

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