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HSBC interim CEO demands action from managers after Flint's exit

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HSBC Holdings Plc's interim chief said he wants "less process and more action" over the next few months in his first call with senior managers after John Flint was abruptly ousted from the top job.

[LONDON] HSBC Holdings Plc's interim chief said he wants "less process and more action" over the next few months in his first call with senior managers after John Flint was abruptly ousted from the top job.

"We need to be more granular in the execution plan to deliver," Noel Quinn said on a call with managers earlier Tuesday, according to remarks recounted to Bloomberg News. "We need to be honest with ourselves on what is working, and what is not." Mr Quinn was head of HSBC's global commercial banking arm until the announcement of Mr Flint's departure.

Europe's largest lender removed Chief Executive Officer Flint this week after just 18 months, citing an "increasingly complex" environment, and announced a new round of job cuts. During Mr Flint's short tenure, the 238,000-employee bank has grappled with a declining stock price, a high-profile sexual harassment case at its investment bank and a failure to hit cost targets. That has led to a new programme to eliminate jobs and questions from auditors about how these goals would be met.

HSBC announced a US$1 billion stock buyback on Monday in addition to the Flint exit, and second-quarter pretax profit of US$6.2 billion that exceeded analyst estimates. However, Ewen Stevenson, chief financial officer who joined the call with Mr Quinn, said the bank has to make good on its promises to investors.

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"I want to increase the pace of the execution and I want to do it in a more simplified fashion: less process, more action," said Mr Quinn, who has worked at HSBC for 32 years, during the call. The focus should be on growth, he said. A spokeswoman for HSBC declined to comment.

The interim CEO also said that it's tough to be a domestic bank and an international bank in about 60 countries. The strategy in China and Hong Kong remains unchanged, he said.

"Yesterday was a difficult day for a lot of us, and it was a particularly difficult day for John," according to Mr Quinn. Asked about what he is most passionate about, Mr Quinn said that his time is fully consumed by HSBC.

"At the moment, there is not much else happening beyond HSBC," he said. "I do like my downtime. I tried over the last 30 years to try to protect the weekends whenever possible. "

BLOOMBERG