The HSBC banker at the centre of a storm of controversy over sustainable investing and climate change has quit, saying the Asia-focused lender’s behaviour towards him made his position “unsustainable”.
Stuart Kirk, then head of sustainable investing, told a Financial Times event in May that central bankers were overstating warnings about the threat to investors and banks from global warming.
“Today I wish to announce that I have resigned as global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management,” Kirk wrote in a post on LinkedIn, the professional social media platform.
“Ironically, given my job title, I have concluded that the bank’s behaviour towards me since my speech at a Financial Times conference in May has made my position, well, unsustainable.”
Climate Change Crisis
Kirk said his 27-year record in finance, journalism and consulting was “unblemished”, adding: “I have only ever tried to do the best for my clients and readers, knowing that doing so helps my employer too.”
In his May speech, Kirk said “there was always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”, comparing the climate change crisis to the Y2K bug that predicted a widespread computer glitch at the dawn of the year 2000.
“Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,” Kirk wrote in a PowerPoint screen accompanying his presentation.
He was suspended by the bank after negative reactions to his speech and rebuked publicly by HSBC chief executive Noel Quinn and head of wealth and personal banking Nuno Matos.
Kirk said he was planning a new venture with “a crack group of like-minded individuals” that he would announce later in the year.
“Investing is hard,” he wrote on LinkedIn, adding that climate change was a complex issue.
“So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ. But humanity’s best chance of success is open and honest debate. If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress.”
- George Russell