HSBC names insider Flint for CEO as Tucker follows tradition

HSBC Holdings Plc named John Flint as its next chief executive officer after new Chairman Mark Tucker opted not to break with tradition and tapped a long-serving insider to run Europe’s largest bank.

Flint, 49, currently head of retail banking and wealth management, HSBC’s largest division, will take over from incumbent Stuart Gulliver in February, according to a statement on Thursday. He joined the bank’s management training program in 1989 and rose through the ranks of its Asian trading floor before returning to Europe 13 years ago to take on senior roles spanning the consumer and investment banking sides of the business. He’s been treasurer, deputy head of markets, chief of staff and head of strategy.

“He’s worked in all our main markets, he’s worked in many of the group’s key roles, he’s been involved in HSBC through critical stages of development through the financial crisis,” Tucker said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. “He has a vast amount of experience and exposure. He’s got a very good track record of building high performing teams.”

By picking a 28-year veteran, Tucker, himself an HSBC outsider who replaced Douglas Flint as chairman on Oct. 1, has bowed to the lender’s tradition of spurning CEO candidates without a lengthy history at the firm. Tucker also considered external candidates, including Peter Hancock, the former boss of American International Group Inc., Bloomberg News has reported.

Flint will take over a London-based bank focused on Asia that may be starting to grow again after five years of declining revenue. His predecessor spent much of his tenure shrinking HSBC’s vast global network, exiting businesses and countries and enduring several costly misconduct scandals. The new chief’s tasks will likely include improving the bank’s technology, continuing Gulliver’s “pivot to Asia” and $100 billion of investment in China’s Pearl River Delta region, and growing the asset-management unit.

“Back in 2011, HSBC was looking at trimming its balance sheet with disposals and reshaping a number of regions while also handling litigation and investigations,” said Gildas Surry, who helps manage 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) of financial-sector debt at Axiom Alternative Investments in London. “Under Flint, the bank will be focusing on organic growth and capital generation while continuing to contain costs and risk-weighted assets.”

HSBC had drawn every one of its previous 21 top executives from its own ranks over its 152-year history, according to the bank’s records. Flint and other internal candidates had sought to persuade Tucker, the 59-year-old former CEO of Hong Kong-based insurer AIA Group, that the recent stock rally and signs of revived revenue growth justified maintaining continuity with the current management team.