By Rachel Armstrong and Lawrence White
LONDON (Reuters) – HSBC (L:HSBA) has chosen John Flint as its next chief executive, with its newly arrived chairman promoting an insider to drive revenue growth at Europe’s biggest bank.
Flint, who runs HSBC’s retail and wealth management business out of London, will take over as CEO in February next year when Stuart Gulliver, 58, retires after seven years in the job.
The appointment is the first major decision taken by former AIA Group (HK:1299) chief Mark Tucker, who officially took up his post at HSBC just 12 days ago as its first externally-appointed chairman.
Flint, who is not related to Tucker’s predecessor Douglas Flint, is viewed by other HSBC executives as the safe option, having worked at the bank since 1989.
During his career at HSBC Flint, 49, has worked across most of its businesses and spent his first 14 years in Asia, giving him the breadth of experience seen as vital for the CEO role.
“He has a great understanding and regard for HSBC’s heritage, and the passion to build the bank for the next generation,” Tucker said in a statement.
Flint emerged as the forerunner in the past six months as expectations HSBC could appoint its first external CEO in its 150-year history waned on the back of a rally in its share price.
The bank’s stock is up 14 percent so far this year, though was little moved on Thursday following the announcement of Flint’s appointment.
“It’s good news – it’s important to mix an insider with the new outside chairman and continue on the path set by the current team,” said Hugh Young, head of Asia at Standard Life (LON:SLA) Aberdeen, one of the bank’s top ten shareholders.
PUSH FOR GROWTH
Flint will be paid a base salary of 1.2 million pounds ($1.6 million) a year, as well as a fixed pay allowance of 1.7 million pounds and an annual pension allowance of 360,000 pounds.
He will also be entitled to an annual bonus worth up to 215 percent of his base pay and a long-term incentive award of up to 320 pct of his base pay.
His main task will be to grow revenues across HSBC’s businesses, as it seeks to grow profits again following a period of restructuring after the 2008-9 financial crisis.
HSBC’s previous management duo of Gulliver and Douglas Flint spent the years since their appointment in 2010 shrinking HSBC, after a period of empire-building in the run-up to the 2008 global financial crisis left the bank over-extended.
In July, HSBC announced its third share buyback in a year and rising profits, in a sign of its turnaround.
But the bank still faces a tough challenge to meet its long term goal of making a better than 10 percent return on equity.
In August last year HSBC abandoned a timetable for achieving that target, as increased regulatory requirements on capital, low interest rates and rising competition from low-cost competitors pressure lenders’ profits worldwide.
Investors will watch closely to see whether Flint continues Gulliver’s shift toward the bank’s second home market of Asia.
HSBC said in 2015 it would hire 4000 staff and lend more in China’s southern Pearl River Delta region, a plan that has since encountered some setbacks as China’s growth slowed.
It has also lost market share in its Asian life insurance business, a trend which analysts expect the bank’s new chairman to attempt to reverse given his background in the industry.
Flint spent much of his early carer in Asia, and has done stints in Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and India as well as the United States and Britain.
Before taking on his retail and wealth role in 2013, he was HSBC’s head of strategy and planning having previously run its global asset management business and was deputy head of its markets business as well as serving as Group Treasurer.