Flint flogs tech treatment

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One senses Douglas Flint is enjoying life after HSBC.

Douglas-Flint-happy-R-780

He was in strident form on stage at the World Capital Market Symposium in Kuala Lumpur in February, during a panel discussion in which he managed to be more pithy, acute, articulate and downright Scottish than fellow panellist Sir David Tweedie, which is going some.

Now free to say exactly what he thinks after ending his seven years as HSBC chairman in 2017, he took on a range of topics, but was sharpest on the rise of fintechs as competitors to banks. 

“I smile when I hear tech companies say things that banks might have said 30 years ago: that we are just a platform, people do things across us and it’s not our responsibility to monitor what they do,” he said. “That ended a long time ago for banks. And society is not going to stand for some of the services people are abusing social media platforms to facilitate.”

Banks bought platforms, the moderator pointed out. Would Amazon buy a bank?

“No, the last thing tech companies want is to be regulated,” Flint said. “Amazon has 10% of the capital of HSBC. Tech companies have a superb business model where they leverage other people’s investment in physical assets and regulatory compliance to provide services that can be sold for a fee against zero capital.” 

One wonders whether Flint resents the likes of Amazon or invests in them. Maybe it’s both.