The speech 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 this didn’t help at all,” said Damien Lardoux, head of impact investing at EQ Investors.
“These comments are regressive and grossly flawed,” said Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner for the Bank on our Future campaign. “Pension fund clients should note that HSBC Global Asset Management might not be as serious about protecting their capital from the effects of climate change as it claims to be, and they should be looking for a more responsible asset manager. And HSBC Group should be asking themselves if Kirk is right for this role.”
Mr. Kirk has worked at HSBC since early 2020 and took on his current role in July 2021, according to an HSBC statement at the time. Previously, he worked for Deutsche Bank’s asset management unit.
His presentation made the case that while regulators, politicians and senior financiers were playing up the risks, the markets appeared to be taking the danger in their stride. “The number of times climate catastrophe is mentioned, the higher and higher risk assets go,” he said. His first slide was titled: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong.”
Pointing to the current economic backdrop, Mr. Kirk said markets were “crashing around our ears today and yesterday for nothing to do with climate change whatsoever.”
“I implore our leaders, and our regulator most of all, because I spend way too much time at work dealing with this, just show some perspective and let’s get back to making money out of the transition because there are thousands of opportunities out there.”
A day after Mr. Kirk’s comments, HSBC CEO Noel Quinn gave a more on-message speech at the FIII conference, saying the bank wanted to be a market leader in financing the transition of industry to a low-carbon world.
“Over the next 30 years the move to a more sustainable carbon footprint will require huge investment,” Mr. Quinn said. “That has to happen in space and time, like we haven’t seen before.”