Lake calls time on HSBC

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By:
Clive Horwood
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HSBC global banking and markets vice-chairman and architect of its transformative capital financing model Spencer Lake has decided to leave the firm, Euromoney has learned.

Euromoney understands that Spencer Lake has resigned from HSBC, bringing to an end a decade-long association with the bank’s wholesale banking division during which he played a key role in making it a leading player in global capital markets, and increasingly in advisory business.

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Spencer Lake

Lake’s future had been the subject of speculation since a decision to move him to a vice-chairman role in the global banking and markets division earlier this year, which saw the capital financing group that Lake ran globally re-merged with a newly enlarged global banking operation.

As part of that reorganization, Matthew Westerman was brought in from Goldman to run global banking alongside veteran Robin Phillips.

Lake, a hands-on and driven executive, was unlikely to remain long in a vice-chairman role that took him away from day-to-day management of an important business line, HSBC insiders said at the time.

That was particularly the case given the success Lake had demonstrated over a three-year period since 2013 as global head of HSBC’s capital financing division, which meant that many – both internally and externally – were surprised that he was passed over for top role earlier this year.

As Euromoney said when awarding HSBC the title of the world’s best investment bank in July: “The stand-out business [in Q1 2016 in GB&M] was capital financing. Put in place in 2013, capital financing aimed to bring together the financing businesses that resided in different parts of HSBC’s banking and markets operation to create a joined-up product offering for clients of both the global banking division and the commercial bank.

"In its three short years capital financing has had a transformative effect on HSBC’s offering to clients, its deal output and, just as importantly, on the culture of the firm. HSBC has finally become a strong competitor in event-driven business.”

By 2015 capital financing had achieved significant P&L growth, RWA reduction and market share gains, but it was also becoming clear that in the current market environment and in order to leverage the model further, capital financing’s functions needed to be broadly put back into global banking. Lake supported the decision to do so, even if it brought uncertainty to his own role.

Decade of tenure

Lake joined HSBC in 2006 after more than 15 years at Merrill Lynch, where he was co-head of European debt capital markets. 

As global head of DCM, he played a key role in helping HSBC finally fulfil its potential to become a leading bond house in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

It also became a top-ranked firm in areas such as sovereign advisory and infrastructure finance. Lake was co-head of global markets from 2011 to 2013; during that time, the success of some of the initiatives on co-operation across business lines he brought in played a part in GB&M head Samir Assaf's decision to formally create the capital financing division in 2013.

In recent years Lake has also developed a reputation as an important and passionate spokesman for the capital markets industry – notably on issues such as the development of RMB capital markets and on green bonds – in his role at ICMA, where he has been a board member since 2011 and chairman since 2015. It is likely he will have to step down from ICMA if he is out of the market for any length of time.

In an internal memo seen by Euromoney, Assaf said: "During his time at HSBC, Spencer has been instrumental in building our global capital markets and investment banking capabilities. He also contributed significantly to a number of specific strategic initiatives including sustainable finance, the internationalization of the RMB and infrastructure finance. His drive, leadership and creativity has helped HSBC achieve the success in these sectors it currently enjoys. 

"Spencer has also been a great advocate for HSBC outside the bank, contributing considerably to the process of educating important external stakeholders about GBM’s business. His efforts have played a notable role in many of the awards we have won, including recently the World’s Best Investment Bank from Euromoney." 

Euromoney understands that Lake’s decision to step down from HSBC is not related to other specific offers of employment. However, he remains ambitious to achieve more after his decade of success at HSBC, and is likely to return to the markets in a senior role in due course.