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HSBC names insider Quinn as CEO amid growth headwinds

London

HSBC Holdings has appointed Noel Quinn as its new chief executive officer, handing the insider and interim boss the reins of Europe's biggest bank and ending months of speculation that an external candidate would land the role.

Mr Quinn takes the helm as the London-headquartered bank faces a challenging outlook, with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic adding to its long-standing underperformance in the US and the struggles in its investment bank.

The bank makes 90 per cent of its profits in Asia, and the sharp economic downturn in its main markets of Hong Kong and China are expected to dent its revenues and asset quality in the near to medium term.

Mr Quinn, who joined HSBC in 1987, took interim charge of HSBC last August after the shock ousting of John Flint. He has been auditioning for the permanent job since, despite media reports that chairman Mark Tucker preferred an external candidate.

Unicredit boss Jean Pierre Mustier and incoming UBS Group CEO Ralph Hamers were among those reported to have caught Mr Tucker's eye. "Noel has proven to be the outstanding candidate to take on the role permanently. He has performed impressively on an interim basis since August 2019," Mr Tucker said in a statement on Tuesday.

Mr Quinn takes over just as the bank heads into what could be the biggest economic shock in recent times as the coronavirus outbreak brings global travel and consumer spending in many countries to a stop.

Mr Tucker defied market expectations that the bank would name Mr Quinn or an outsider to the role when it presented its full-year results and new strategy in February, leaving the interim CEO in limbo and in charge of a plan he might not be around to execute.

The bank is shrinking its investment bank, cutting 35,000 jobs and revamping its US and European businesses, to cut US$4.5 billion in costs, as part of the latest strategic overhaul.

Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec, said he welcomed the appointment, which would provide the bank "much needed strategic clarity". "I would have welcomed it with greater enthusiasm had it been announced alongside the strategic plan a month ago," he said.

Mr Quinn will earn a base salary of £1.27 million (S$2.19 million) per annum, the bank said. REUTERS