HomeBussinessLimerick man in contention for €12m-a-year HSBC top job

Limerick man in contention for €12m-a-year HSBC top job


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Barry O’Byrne is said to be among the candidates to replace current CEO Noel Quinn

The bank, which has headquarters in London and has major operations in its original home base of Hong Kong, is preparing to name a third CEO in less than eight years after veteran banker Mr Quinn (62) announced on Tuesday that he plans to retire.

The job is highly paid. Mr Quinn earned £10.64m (€12.44m) last year, including bonuses. As a ‘good leaver’ from HSBC he will be able to fully cash in various deferred elements of his remuneration after he retires.

The outgoing bank chief is a HSBC lifer, having joined Midland Bank in 1987 after training as an accountant at Grant Thornton. The smaller British bank was subsumed by the bigger lender in the early 1990s. Mr Quinn himself is from an Irish background, growing up in Birmingham’s large post-World War II Irish community.

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His ‘Brummie’ accent and education at the then Birmingham Polytechnic set him apart at the bank where senior leaders historically tended to be recruited among the outflow from Oxford and Cambridge and from English public schools.

Mr Quinn’s four-year tenure at the helm of HSBC saw profit touch a record high last year and shares are up more than a third since he took over in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

However, the bank has faced criticism from policy makers in the US and UK for freezing accounts of Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, which HSBC said was in line with a National Security Law introduced there as part of a Chinese government response to pro-democracy demonstrations in 2019.

As much as 40pc of HSBC’s business – formerly Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation – is in China.

Mr Quinn is staying in situ until a replacement is found.

Historically, the bank has recruited to the top job internally, although HSBC said on Tuesday it will consider external candidates.

HSBC chairman Mark Tucker declined to comment on individual candidates to succeed Mr Quinn when asked by reporters on a call, but a number of front runners have been identified.

At the top is thought to be the group’s current chief financial officer, Georges Elhedery a 50-year-old Lebanon-born banker who joined HSBC in 2005 and whose banking career was mostly spent in trading rather than in the finance function.

Ian Stuart, who leads HSBC’s UK bank, is also tipped as a potential contender. Unusually for a top banker, the 60-year-old left school at 16 and started out in banking as a teller.

Former British Army officer and head of HSBC Europe Colin Bell, the bank’s Princeton-educated head of global banking and markets Greg Guyett, and Portugal-born Nuno Matos, who heads the growing wealth business, are also in the running.

Meanwhile, London’s banking focused CityAM newspaper says Limerick-born, Hong Kong-based Barry O’Byrne is also among the contenders.

He is currently HSBC’s head of commercial banking – the job Noel Quinn had before becoming CEO.

The unit serves clients in 53 countries ranging from large SMEs to businesses with a £1bn turnover. Before joining HSBC in 2017 Mr O’Byrne held a number of increasingly senior roles at GE Capital in Ireland, France, Italy and the UK having started his career with its former GE Money unit in Shannon, Co Clare. Before the financial crash it was a significant player in Ireland for personal loan, car finance, commercial lending and mortgages.

Mr O’Byrne graduated from the University of Limerick in 1996 with a degree in Business Studies and French and before that was educated at St Nessan’s Community College in Limerick city.

A dearth of women among senior management at HSBC means it’s likely any females in contention for the top job would be external candidates.

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