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HSBC: A year of transition

New chief executive John Flint has bought himself some breathing room to deliver the bank’s return-to-growth mode

Last year was always going to be one of transition for HSBC. The bank’s long-serving top duo – chief executive Stuart Gulliver and executive chairman Douglas Flint – both stepped down from the business.

Fortunately, the handover – to life-long insider, John Flint, as chief executive, and to the bank’s first-ever external appointment to a new role as nonexecutive chairman, Mark Tucker – was a great deal smoother than it had been when Gulliver took the reins seven years earlier.

Long-serving finance director Iain Mackay is also standing down, to be replaced by his counterpart at RBS, Ewen Stevenson.

John Flint has been dealt a relatively strong hand by his predecessor. It took Gulliver almost his whole tenure to wrestle HSBC into a coherent mix of businesses with a clear strategic focus. Tough decisions were made and some sacred cows sent to the slaughterhouse. Myriad businesses were shuttered or sold. Gulliver pivoted HSBC to its core franchises, notably in Asia.

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