[LONDON] HSBC has appointed headhunters to find new non-executive directors in an effort to freshen up its board, a person familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Europe's biggest bank has previously said its next chairman will be an external candidate, and Sky News said one of the new non-executives was likely to be a replacement for Chairman Douglas Flint.
Shareholders and industry sources have previously said they expected Flint to step down in the next 12-24 months.
The bank has appointed headhunters MWM Consulting to search for new non-executive directors, the source said.
Sky, which first reported the appointment of MWM, said one of the new non-executives would be earmarked to succeed Flint, and it said he would step down no later than HSBC's shareholder meeting in 2017.
HSBC has been shaken by a scandal over failings at its Swiss private bank after allegations it helped clients dodge taxes.
Mr Flint, 59, has been chairman since 2010, and before that had been finance director since 1995. He is respected for his regulatory expertise and he also chairs industry lobby group the Institute of International Finance.
Several investors said the time was right for HSBC to plan for a change.
"Douglas Flint has been a good company man, but due to (the length of) his tenure, a lot of things have gone wrong while he has been there," one of the bank's 20 largest shareholders said.
Mr Flint was appointed chairman and Stuart Gulliver was named chief executive after a boardroom battle in 2010, which marked a departure from HSBC's track record of orderly successions.
After that, the bank said it had told shareholders the board would ensure it had non-executives eligible to move up to be the next chairman and one of them probably would.
HSBC's longest serving non-executives who could be replaced include Rona Fairhead and Simon Robertson, who have been on the board for 11 years and nine years respectively. Sam Laidlaw, Rachel Lomax and Safra Catz, also non-executives, have been on the board since 2008.