Stuart Kirk, HSBC Asset Management’s embattled global head of responsible investments — whom the bank suspended in May after he criticized the financial sector’s commitment to accounting for climate risk — has resigned from his position, he wrote in a LinkedIn post Thursday.
“A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress,” Kirk wrote Thursday. “There is no place for virtue [signaling] in finance.”
HSBC declined requests for comment Thursday from Reuters, Bloomberg and the Financial Times, which hosted the May conference at which Kirk made his controversial comments. (Kirk also wrote for the outlet from 2006 to 2013.)
“What bothers me … is the amount of work [regulators] make me do [related to climate risk],” Kirk said in May. “I work at a bank that’s being attacked by crypto. … We’ve got the China problem, we’ve got a housing crisis looming, we’ve got interest rates going up, we’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time and time again looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years hence.”
The average loan length is six years, Kirk noted during his speech, asserting that whatever happens in Year 7 is irrelevant to the loan book.
HSBC suspended Kirk within days, and the bank’s CEO, Noel Quinn, wrote on LinkedIn at the time that he did not agree “at all” with Kirk’s comments, calling the presentation “inconsistent” with the bank’s strategy.
“I hope my colleagues, customers and others will all know, from our work and my public comments, that HSBC is absolutely committed to a net zero future,” Quinn wrote. “Given our global reach and capabilities we have an obligation to lead.”
Kirk, for his part, teased Thursday that he would announce this year an effort to launch an asset class that hinges on the idea that “human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities.”
“Meanwhile, I will continue to prod with a sharp stick the nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance,” Kirk wrote Thursday. “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.”
Kirk’s comments in May pushed at least one institutional investor, which manages more than $100 billion, to reconsider whether to keep the bank as a sustainability adviser, Reuters reported.
Additionally, Sen. Steve Daines, R-MT, wrote Quinn in June, asking whether the bank faced pressure to suspend Kirk — adding, according the Financial Times, that he was “concerned that this episode may involve breaches of U.S. law.”
It was unclear whether HSBC’s investigation into Kirk's comments had wrapped up before Kirk posted Thursday on LinkedIn, according to Reuters.
Kirk’s profile on the job-networking site, however, includes the parenthetical “(Actually loves Miami) — a cheeky reference to one comment he made in his May speech: namely, “Who cares if Miami is underwater?”
In a parting shot to his former employer, Kirk wrote Thursday: “Ironically given my job title, I have concluded that the bank’s [behavior] towards me since my speech … has made my position, well, unsustainable.”