HSBC Asset Management’s global head of responsible investing, Stuart Kirk, has resigned and blasted the business for giving into “cancel culture”.
Kirk (pictured) was suspended by his employer in May after delivering a provocative speech at the FT Moral Money Summit, in which he accused central bankers of making “shrill … apocalyptic warnings” on climate change and flippantly asked, “Who cares if Miami is six meters underwater in 100 years?”
In a Linkedin post on Thursday, he said the bank’s behaviour since his presentation, entitled ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk,’ had made his position “unsustainable” and he had decided to quit.
“There is no place for virtue signalling in finance,” he wrote. “If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress.”
During his speech, he complained about the volume of work being generated from new regulation, and said throughout his 25-year career “there is always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”.
“I work at a bank that’s being attacked by crypto, we’ve got regulators in the US trying to stop us, 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 pike 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.”
His fiery remarks were condemned by HSBC CEO Noel Quinn who described them as “inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy”. However, Kirk’s presentation was internally approved ahead of the event.
In his latest post, Kirk also teased details for a new venture to be announced later this year. During his suspension he said he had assembled “a crack group of like-minded individuals” and together they had devised “arguably the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived” and “a whole new asset class”.
“The first project will underline the central argument in my speech: that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities,” he explained.
“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 became HSBC AM’s global head of responsible investing last July after joining the business in 2020. Prior to this he was a journalist for the Financial Times and worked for DWS.
See also: Hortense Bioy: HSBC’s Stuart Kirk got a few things right