Noel Quinn will be a hard act to follow at HSBC
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Noel Quinn will be a hard act to follow at HSBC

Restructuring HSBC, like painting the Forth bridge, is a never-ending job. While Noel Quinn has done well, the board must not make another ham-fisted transition.

Photo: Reuters

Announced this morning, HSBC’s first-quarter results were decent enough – better than most analysts had expected on income and cost.

But while analysts combed through the earnings release to update their models, the rest of the world focused on the one issue that didn’t rate a mention in its 54 pages: Once again, and sooner than expected, chairman Mark Tucker is searching for a new chief executive.

Noel Quinn has been an excellent leader of HSBC, the bank where he has worked for 37 years. He was confirmed as chief executive in March 2020, seven months after taking the role on an interim basis, following the board’s botched first effort to replace Stuart Gulliver, another HSBC lifer and another high-achieving CEO.

The board had decided in 2018 that John Flint was the right man to continue Gulliver’s restructuring of the bank. And then, 18 months later, it decided he wasn’t.

Quinn took over just as many other of the HSBC lifers who had risen to senior positions under Gulliver and Tucker’s predecessor as chairman, Douglas Flint, left the bank.

Making of the chief

It was an uncertain period with worse to come in the form of the pandemic.

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