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HSBC: The world’s interim bank

The lifers are being cleared out at a bank traditionally known for the long service of its senior management.

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To be in HSBC senior management is to be one of two things.

Traditionally, you were a dyed-in-the-wool lifer, more often than not making the slow crawl to the top through retail and commercial banking. More recently, you might have been an iconoclast outsider, with – whisper it quietly – ideas from elsewhere. A bear in a China shop.

Either way, at the HSBC of today, the lifers are being cleared out and the institution has the feeling of being at an interim point, a crossroads. The outsiders are taking over.

And so it is with John Flint, the latest senior executive to be jettisoned by the firm.

Picked as the successor to Stuart Gulliver in October 2017, taking over the role in February 2018, and lauded as having, in chairman Mark Tucker’s words, “a great understanding and regard for HSBC’s heritage, and the passion to build the bank for the next generation”, he is now gone. By “mutual agreement”.

He has been replaced, on what the bank says is an interim basis, by commercial banking head Noel Quinn, who came to the firm via its 1992 acquisition of Midland Bank, which he had joined in 1987.

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