HSBC CEO John Flint steps down after less than two years in role

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John Flint’s tenure running HSBC Holdings PLC has come to an abrupt end, with the bank announcing early Monday in Asia that the chief executive officer was stepping down.

Flint will be replaced on an interim basis by Noel Quinn, head of global commercial banking. The lender, which also released its latest quarterly results several hours earlier than scheduled, didn’t give a reason for the decision. Flint, 51, joined HSBC in 1989 and took over as CEO in February 2018.

“The board believes a change is needed to meet the challenges that we face and to capture the very significant opportunities before us,” Chairman Mark Tucker said in a statement.

The bank will now begin a search for a permanent replacement, including internal and external candidates, it said.

Flint has been pressuring his top managers to lower costs in recent months. At least 500 jobs were set to be culled within global banking and markets, people familiar with the matter said in May, with London likely to be in the front line. The CEO’s departure follows exits last month of U.S. head Patrick Burke and Greg Pierce, who ran the U.S. markets business.

The lender also said it would shortly begin a buyback of up to $1 billion and announced pretax profit for the quarter of $6.2 billion. The bank said in Monday’s statement that it did not expect to achieve its targeted 6% return on tangible equity in the U.S. by 2020. While HSBC will continue to target overall RoTE of more than 11% in 2020, “we will not take short-term decisions that could jeopardize the long-term health of the business,” it said.

HSBC faces a dilemma between the need to invest in its global businesses and the pressure to show it has costs under control. The bank had budgeted investments of $5 billion this year, but it’s been measured in laying that out, spending just $1 billion in the first three months of the year.

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