Stuart Kirk Resigns from HSBC Following ESG Controversy

Published on: 08 July 2022
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The former global head of responsible investing at HSBC’s asset management division has quit the bank after making controversial comments on climate change.

Stuart Kirk, who had been suspended by the bank in May, has now announced on LinkedIn that the bank's treatment of him following his speech at a Financial Times conference made his position “unsustainable”. 

Referring to his “27-year unblemished record in finance, journalism, and consulting”, Kirk said he only ever wanted to help his clients and, in turn, his employers. 

Kirk also referred to “cancel culture” and said there was "no place for virtue signalling in finance”.

He used the LinkedIn post to announce a new project he was working on, which he described as “the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived.” 

He wrote: “True impact comes from the combination of real-world action and innovative solutions.

"Which is why I’ve been gathering a crack group of like-minded individuals together to deliver what is arguably the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived. 

“A whole new asset class. Sounds fanciful – but I am not one for hyperbole, as viewers of my presentation know well.”

He said further details on this project would be announced later this year, but Kirk said it would undermine the central argument of his speech, which is that human ingenuity "can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities".

Kirk finished his LinkedIn post by promising to continue to prod the “nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance.”

The suspension in May was made pending an internal investigation into a controversial speech made by Kirk in which he accused central bankers and policymakers of overstating the financial risks of climate change in an attempt to “out-hyperbole the next guy”.

He also told investors they need not be worried about climate change, and there was “always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”.

Following the suspension, HSBC stated it would not comment on individual employees’ situations.

Reacting to the news at the time, some advisers argued that Kirk’s comments were “balanced” and “spot-on”.

Earlier this year, however, an IPCC report warned that the risks of climate change are greater than previously believed. 

​​Kirk is a former FT journalist who worked at Deutsche Bank and its DWS asset management business before joining HSBC AM in 2020.

Source: FT Adviser

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