HSBC investment bank veteran Phillips to quit

An HSBC veteran criticised by an anonymous group of colleagues in a scathing memo last year is to step down after more than a decade as one of the City’s leading investment bankers.

Sky News has learnt that Robin Phillips, HSBC’s co-head of global banking, is to leave the role in the coming months.

Mr Phillips, whose retirement is expected to be announced internally on Thursday, will hand the reins of the unit – one of four in the global banking and markets division (GBM) of Europe’s biggest lender – to Greg Guyett, who was named its other co-head last autumn.

Sources said that Mr Phillips had signalled his desire to step down after 13 years in the job – a tenure which has made him one of the longest-serving heads of a major corporate and investment banking unit in the industry.

They added that his decision to leave was unconnected to a memo circulated last summer by a group which claimed to comprise senior executives in HSBC’s GBM unit.

In the note, which was treated by HSBC Holdings’ board as a whistleblowing event, Mr Phillips was singled out for criticism and accused of overseeing “persistent failure” in the business.

Customers use an HSBC automated teller machine (ATM) outside a bank branch, operated by HSBC Holdings Plc, in London, U.K.,

© Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Customers use an HSBC automated teller machine (ATM) outside a bank branch, operated by HSBC Holdings Plc, in London, U.K.,

The memo sent shockwaves through HSBC and for several weeks was one of the most hotly debated topics in the City.

“We are entirely fed up and demoralised and have no confidence at all in the existing leadership,” it said.

“Phillips and his coterie should be replaced by the world-class investment banking professionals which HSBC deserves.”

The letter was sent last August to board members including Mark Tucker, HSBC’s chairman, and John Flint, chief executive.

Sources said on Wednesday that an investigation carried out in accordance with whistleblowing procedures had entirely exonerated Mr Phillips of any wrongdoing.

Allies of the veteran banker pointed out that he had helped to steer a key part of HSBC’s GBM business through both the financial crisis of 2008 and the traumas in the eurozone which began two years later.

They added that the memo had unfairly tainted Mr Phillips’ reputation and accused its authors of professional envy and a misunderstanding of the strategic objectives of HSBC’s global banking operations.

HSBC to rebrand it's British retail business to be the 'bank of choice'

© PA Wire HSBC to rebrand it’s British retail business to be the ‘bank of choice’Figures disclosed this week in the group’s annual results for 2018 showed a 2% rise in revenues in the unit jointly headed by Mr Phillips to just over $4.1bn.

Overall, HSBC’s reported pre-tax profit for last year was $19.9bn, below analysts’ expectations.

HSBC has struggled to overturn the perception in some parts of the investment banking industry that its performance has been consistently outshone by rivals.

However, its focus on business areas neglected by Wall Street giants such as Goldman Sachs has meant that GBM has continued to account for a substantial minority of HSBC’s vast global revenues.

In the past year, Mr Phillips’ division has attracted a cluster of high-profile bankers from rivals such as JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley.

HSBC is one of the lenders best-positioned to exploit growing trade flows between the world’s faster-growing economies.

It also continues to exhibit strong performance in businesses such as cash management and foreign exchange.

The overall GBM operation is run by Samir Assaf, another long-serving executive at the group.

An HSBC spokesman declined to comment on Wednesday, while Mr Phillips could not be reached for comment.


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