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HSBC eyes payouts and new roles for executives who miss out on CEO job: Sources

HSBC eyes payouts and new roles for executives who miss out on CEO job: Sources
HSBC is expected to pick its new CEO from a crop of internal candidates, with an announcement possible as soon as July, sources said.
PHOTO: Reuters

LONDON —?As HSBC prepares to name its third chief executive in nine years, the bank is exploring financial incentives and reallocating key projects to retain those who miss out on the top job, two people with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters.

Europe's biggest bank could reassign its technology transformation and innovation strategy, currently overseen by CEO Noel Quinn, away from his successor, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

HSBC is expected to pick its new CEO from a crop of internal candidates, with an announcement possible as soon as July, two other sources with knowledge of the matter said.

The bank is keen to retain top talent after a string of internal changes and as it faces challenges including tensions between UK?and China, its key markets, and a lacklustre share price performance.

Three shareholders, including two of HSBC's 20 largest, told Reuters they were concerned the CEO appointment could lead to more management upheaval.

Picking chief financial officer Georges Elhedery as CEO, for example, would see the CFO role occupied by a third person in less than three years.

"Promotions do leave gaps elsewhere, and that merry-go-round can be problematic if not handled well," one of the investors said.

The reassigned projects could come with significant pay incentives as they represent the majority of the weighting in Mr Quinn's key performance indicators, HSBC's remuneration report shows. Mr Quinn's total pay package doubled in 2023 from the previous year to ?10 million (S$17.3 million).

The nomination committee is expected to choose from a cluster of executives that includes Mr Elhedery, wealth business head Nuno Matos, Europe boss Colin Bell, and investment bank chief Greg Guyett, according to media reports.

Chairman Mark Tucker is also due to stand down by 2026.

"It certainly is unusual for a large bank such as HSBC to go through three major changes in such rapid succession," said Mr Octavio Marenzi, CEO of consulting firm Opimas.

The changes follow Mr Quinn's reshaping of the bank in which he dropped underperforming businesses in markets such as the United States, Canada and France and trimmed upper management ranks.

A pressing task for his successor will be to revive the bank's shares. Since Mr Quinn took over in August 2019, HSBC stock has gained just four?per cent, lagging a 54 per cent surge in a European banking sector index and an almost 14 per cent increase in a British sector index.

By highlighting the bank's top talent, the process also makes those not selected potential targets for headhunters, the former executive said.

Reuters was unable to verify the size of the financial incentives under discussion.

"Pay increases for better retention under the C-suite would be a good thing," a third HSBC shareholder said.

"It is really important to ensure some stability and continuity for the bank given the CEO transition."

Ping An Asset Management, HSBC's largest investor, declined to comment.

Kyle Samuels, CEO of Creative Talent Endeavors, which advises banks and venture capital firms on how to retain top staff, said internal promotions can be complex.

"The chairman needs to communicate the decision transparently and offer significant new roles or projects to keep those not selected. Immediate recognition and rewards can also help," said Samuels, who is not currently advising HSBC on its process.

But the appointment of an insider could help the bank stay on track, some analysts said.

"While it is relatively rare for a bank to change all three of its chairman, CEO and CFO in short succession, for HSBC if the CFO does become the CEO it will provide some degree of continuity," said RBC Capital Markets' Benjamin Toms.?

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