HSBC: Banker suspended after casting doubt on climate change warnings

Stuart Kirk The Global Head of Responsible Investing at HSBC Asset Management.

Stuart Kirk’s presentation is said to have been prearranged by bosses (Image: HSBC)

HSBC has suspended a senior banker who claimed warnings about the climate crisis were “unfounded” during a inflammatory presentation, it has been claimed.

The head of Responsible Investment at the urban giant questioned whether anyone cares about cities being flooded in the future.

Now Stuart Kirk is expected to be investigated after the event in London last week – although the comments were reportedly agreed with bosses in advance.

He reportedly said at a conference that “there’s always some weirdo telling me about the end of the world” and showed slides arguing that “baseless, strident, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.”

Mr Kirk also claimed central bankers had exaggerated the risks of global warming, according to the Financial Times.

Now the bank is under pressure to fire him after the presentation entitled “Why Investors Shouldn’t Worry About Climate Risk”.

The banker accused United Nations (UN) and Bank of England officials of exaggerating the financial risks of climate change.

His comments come after recent dire warnings from experts about the state of the world’s environment, with the head of the UN warning last month that the world is on a “fast track to climate catastrophe” following a devastating landmark report.

But shocked attendees at the Financial Times’ Moral Money conference were reportedly told by Mr. Kirk last Thursday, “Who cares if Miami is twenty feet under water in 100 years? Amsterdam has been under six meters of water for ages and it’s a really beautiful place.”

HSBC’s chief executive has slammed the comments.

Noel Quinn wrote on LinkedIn this weekend that “they are not consistent with HSBC’s strategy and do not reflect the views of senior leadership at HSBC or HSBC Asset Management.”

He added: “I disagree – not at all – with the comments made at the FT Moral Money Summit last week.

“Our goal is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in its transition to net zero.

A train passes HSBC's London headquarters in the financial district of Canary Wharf in London February 21, 2017.

HSBC’s top officials have distanced themselves from the comments but the subject of the presentation has been agreed internally (Image: AFP)

“We have a lot to do and I am determined that our team will not be distracted by last week’s comments.”

However, it is understood that the subject of the presentation was given the green light internally.

HSBC has yet to issue a formal statement on Mr Kirk’s reported suspension, saying it “cannot comment on individual employees”.

But Nicolas Moreau, the chief executive of the Banl’s wealth management division, also distanced himself from Mr Kirk’s views.

He said in a statement last Friday that “the comments made at the FT Moral Money event in no way reflect the views of HSBC Asset Management or the HSBC Group”.

HSBC, which has been targeted by groups like Extinction Rebellion for its climate credentials, is likely to find the comments particularly embarrassing as it has sought to boost its green reputation.

Investors recently voted for a new climate promise.

Mr. Kirk was appointed Head of HSBC’s Responsible Investment practice in July 2021 – a role that includes investigating the risks of investments related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

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MORE : The global climate crisis is also a global health crisis HSBC: Banker suspended after casting doubt on climate change warnings

Justin Scacco

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