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March 14, 2017

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HSBC chooses outsider as chairman

HSBC broke with tradition by choosing outsider Mark Tucker to replace Douglas Flint as chairman later this year, handing the AIA Group boss the task of selecting a new chief executive for Europe’s biggest bank in 2018.

A one-time professional footballer and insurance industry veteran who once led Britain’s Prudential, Tucker will take over as the bank’s first-ever external chairman on October 1.

“As a top-five long-term shareholder, we have been involved in the process and are pleased to see a highly regarded and fresh independent chair for HSBC,” said Sacha Sadan, director of corporate governance at Legal & General Investment Management.

Flint’s departure will end one of the longest-serving management partnerships at a major global bank, as HSBC Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver is also due to leave in 2018.

“The appointment of a safe pair of hands like Tucker potentially signals an increasing focus on steadier, annuity-style income streams where HSBC has a competitive advantage and which are also set to benefit as interest rates rise,” Benjamin Quinlan of Hong Kong consultancy Quinlan & Associates said.

Identifying a successor for Gulliver will be one of the first tasks for Tucker, who will receive an annual fee of 1.5 million pounds (US$1.83 million) in addition to standard benefits.

His basic salary at AIA in 2015 was US$1.5 million, but short-term and long-term incentives could bring that total as high as US$9.9 million, according to AIA’s latest annual report.

Gulliver, in common with many global bank CEOs, has not clearly nurtured an obvious successor-in-waiting within the lender’s senior management ranks, leaving the door open to a number of his lieutenants or an outside candidate.

Leading internal candidates include Europe chief Antonio Simoes and retail and wealth-management head John Flint. Former Goldman Sachs banker Matthew Westerman is seen by some internally as a candidate, despite overseeing a relatively small part of HSBC’s investment bank.

Among external possibilities, Lloyds Chief Executive Antonio Horta-Osorio is frequently cited by investors.

“We have been developing some strong internal candidates but you would always expect for a group of this size to benchmark them and look externally as well,” said Sam Laidlaw, an independent board member who also chairs HSBC’s pay committee.

Tucker’s main challenge will be to oversee a return to profit growth.


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