ESG Investing  

HSBC’s responsible investing chief was ‘spot on’, say advisers

HSBC’s responsible investing chief was ‘spot on’, say advisers
Stuart Kirk, global head of responsible investing at the HSBC's asset management division, speaking at the FT Moral Money event in May 2022

The comments made by HSBC’s head of responsible investing were “spot on” and his presentation was “fairly balanced”, financial advisers have said.

Last week, HSBC's Stuart Kirk told a Financial Times conference that investors need not be worried about climate change, and there was “always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”.

He also criticised central bankers and policy makers of exaggerating the risks of climate change in order to "out-hyperbole the next guy".

“Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are always wrong,” he wrote on a slide accompanying his presentation.

The presentation, the theme and content of which according to the FT was agreed by HSBC internally before the conference, has led to Kirk being suspended by the bank.

HSBC stated it would not comment on individual employee’s situations.

But some advisers have agreed with Kirk's views.

Nick Lincoln, director at Values To Vision Financial Planning, said Kirk was “spot on”, and he “can’t believe he actually said what I and my peer group think”.

“ESG is the latest grasp by active fund managers to make themselves relevant again,” he said.

“It is a complete sham.” 

Tim Price, portfolio manager at Price Value Partners said on Twitter: “Kudos to Stuart Kirk of HSBC for telling the truth about anthropogenic climate change.”

He told FTAdviser Kirk is being “hung out to dry” because he pointed out that the emperor has no clothes. 

“[Kirk] was just saying don’t panic, at a time when people are being conditioned to panic outrageously,” he said.

“We’re clearly living through a very charged cultural environment…there are lots of moving parts and some people have a very strong agenda.

“They’re cheerfully riding a trendy bandwagon, and at the end of the day, there are huge sums of other people’s money being jeopardised by misallocation of capital.”

Greg Neall, chartered financial planner at Wake Up Your Wealth, said he was not sure what to make of the speech.

“I find some of the comments very controversial, but his point about financial risk I find to be correct – whether intentionally or not I don’t know,” he said.

“Climate change is not a financial risk; it is a political risk, and I would say an existential political risk.”

Neall added investors need to demand ESG standards and commitment to net zero, not because of the risk to their money, but because of the risk of societal breakdown if it is not achieved. 

“If the influence of the financial world cannot be brought to bear on governments, the influence on the volatility of your investments will be secondary to whether your house is taken by the ocean, or your crops are burned to a cinder.”