HSBC, Credit Suisse CEOs follow Dimon and ditch Saudi conference

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The chief executive officers of HSBC and Credit Suisse became the latest top bankers to abandon an investment conference in Saudi Arabia as pressure grows on the kingdom amid allegations it killed a dissident journalist.

HSBC CEO John Flint will not be attending the Future Investment Initiative event in Riyadh next week, spokeswoman Heidi Ashley said, and nor will Credit Suisse's Tidjane Thiam, according to a person familiar with the matter. Both banks, among the biggest in Europe, are strategic partners of the conference and have close ties to Saudi Arabia. Standard Chartered chief Bill Winters has also pulled out, a spokesman wrote in an email.

The withdrawals deal a severe blow to Saudi Arabia's efforts to draw international financiers after JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon pulled out along with Blackstone's Steve Schwarzman and BlackRock's Laurence Fink. The fiasco around the conference shows how the kingdom is coming under mounting pressure to explain what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a government critic who disappeared two weeks ago.

Relations with Saudi Arabia are of key importance for London-based HSBC, which gets most of its revenue from Asia. The bank is one of the most active international banks in the kingdom and has been a top adviser for initial public offerings since 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman asked Flint and other British bank chiefs for an impromptu meeting in London, people with knowledge of the matter said. Flint canceled his appearance at another event so he could attend, the people said at that time.

Credit Suisse, based in Zurich, has also been trying to expand its business in Saudi Arabia by seeking a license to open branches and hiring more relationship managers for wealthy clients. The kingdom's Olayan family are also one of the largest shareholders in the bank.

Khashoggi's disappearance is the latest in a series of developments that have undercut Prince Mohammed's self-styled image as a modernizer, including his jailing of hundreds of businessmen, royals and activists over the past year in an alleged crackdown on corruption and national security threats.

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