HSBC has suspended its asset management arm’s global head of responsible investing following comments he made about climate change at a London conference last week — remarks that have drawn criticism from the bank’s chief executive and other senior leaders.
Stuart Kirk, who was speaking at a Financial Times Moral Money conference in London on 19 May, gave a speech titled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk” in which he criticised central bankers and policymakers for overstating climate risks by trying to “out-hyperbole the next guy”.
“Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,” also appeared on one of Kirk’s presentation slides.
During his presentation, he also said: “Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six metres underwater for ages, and that’s a really nice place. We will cope with it.”
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Kirk, who is a former FT journalist, also said that throughout his 25-year career in finance, “there was always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”.
Kirk’s suspension was first reported by the FT, which added that the presentation’s theme and content had been agreed internally before the conference, citing people with knowledge of the event’s planning.
Senior HSBC executives have criticised the comments made by Kirk.
“I do not agree – at all – with the remarks made at last week’s FT Moral Money Summit,” Noel Quinn, CEO of HSBC, posted on LinkedIn on Saturday.
“They are inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management. Our ambition is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in the transition to net zero.”
Meanwhile, Celine Herweijer, group chief sustainability officer at HSBC, said: “It’s important to be crystal clear that these are absolutely not views I nor any of the HSBC leadership team share. They couldn’t be further from HSBC’s position.”
Kirk did not respond to a request for comment. HSBC said it did not comment on individual employees.
Nicolas Moreau, CEO of HSBC Asset Management, issued a statement following the conference in which he said Kirk’s remarks “do not reflect the views of HSBC Asset Management nor HSBC Group in any way”.
The comments made by Kirk last week come after the UK advertising watchdog is considering whether to warn the bank that several of its climate-related adverts are “misleading”.
A draft Advertising Standards Authority decision, seen by Financial News, concerns two posters on bus stops in Bristol and London in October 2021 that received 45 complaints.
According to its draft, the ASA could ask the bank not to “omit significant information about its contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions”.
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