The head of responsible investment at HSBC Asset Management has resigned after a provocative speech accusing policymakers of exaggerating the financial risks of climate change.
Stuart Kirk told a Financial Times event in May that central bankers were trying to “leapfrog the next guy” with their stark warnings about the threat global warming poses to investors and banks.
The speech – titled ‘Why investors don’t need to worry about climate risk’ – drew public criticism from HSBC which suspended Kirk pending an internal investigation.
On Thursday, he announced on LinkedIn that he was leaving banking, insisting there was “no place for virtue signaling in finance” and added: “If companies believe in diversity and express themselves, they must follow their lips.A culture of cancellation destroys wealth and progress.
Kirk, who had been publicly reprimanded by HSBC Chief Executive Noel Quinn and Head of Wealth Management and Personal Banking Nuno Matos, said: “Ironically, given my title, I have concluded that the bank’s behavior towards me since my speech at a Financial Times conference in May has made my position, well, untenable.
HSBC declined to comment.
Kirk’s suspension has fueled an industry-wide debate over the rise of environmental, social and governance investments. HSBC’s handling of the incident has angered Republicans in the US, with Senator Steve Daines warning that “the episode could involve violations of US law”.
During his speech at the FT event, Kirk said that throughout his 25-year career in the finance industry, “there was always a crazy job that spoke to me about the end of the world”, comparing the climate crisis to the Y2K bug that predicted widespread spread. computer glitch at the turn of the millennium.
“Unsubstantiated, strident, partisan, self-serving and apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,” he wrote on a slide accompanying his presentation.
Kirk said he was planning a new venture with “a crack bunch of like-minded individuals” which he would announce later in the year.
He added: “May I take this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of people – from business leaders and members of Congress to scientists and mom and pop investors – who have contacted me from around the world to m ‘offer their support and solidarity over the past two months.’
Kirk is a former FT journalist who worked at Deutsche Bank and its DWS asset management business before joining HSBC AM in 2020.
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