HSBC head of responsible investing slams climate ‘hyperbole’

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The talk has already led some wealth managers to consider shunning HSBC’s asset management products. “We don’t have any HSBC sustainable products in our portfolios at the moment and that hasn’t helped at all,” said Damien Lardoux, head of impact investing at EQ Investors.

“These comments are regressive and grossly misguided,” said Beau O’Sullivan, head of the Bank on our Future campaign. “Pension fund clients should note that HSBC Global Asset Management may not be as serious as it claims about protecting their capital from the effects of climate change, and they should seek a more responsible assets. And the HSBC Group should ask themselves if Kirk is suitable for this role.”

Mr Kirk has worked at HSBC since early 2020 and took up his current role in July 2021, according to an HSBC statement at the time. Previously, he worked for the asset management unit of Deutsche Bank.

His presentation argued that while regulators, politicians and major financiers were playing risk, markets seemed to be taking danger in their stride. “The more times a climate catastrophe is mentioned, the higher the assets at risk,” he said. His first slide was titled: “Unsubstantiated, strident, partisan, selfish, and apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.”

Highlighting the current economic backdrop, Mr Kirk said markets were “breaking around our ears today and yesterday for nothing to do with climate change”.

“I’m imploring our leaders, and our regulator especially, because I’m spending way too much time at work dealing with this, just step back and let’s get back to making money from the transition because there are thousands of opportunities there.”

A day after Mr Kirk’s comments, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn gave a more relevant speech at the FIII conference, saying the bank wanted to be a market leader in financing the industry’s transition towards a low-carbon world.

“Over the next 30 years, moving to a more sustainable carbon footprint will require huge investments,” Quinn said. “It has to happen in space and time like we’ve never seen before.”

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