Mr Green tries to reconcile religious faith with his bankers' bonuses

In The Spotlight: Stephen Green, HSBC
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The Independent Online

His second book – published in the midst of the worst recession since the Second World War – received high praise from no less a figure than Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said: "There could hardly be a better time for this book to be published."

In Good Value: Reflections on Money, Morality and an Uncertain World, Stephen Green openly wondered whether the world's financial system has been built on sand.

Tall, slim and ascetic, the chairman of HSBC is rather more thoughtful than the average banker. Educated at Exeter College, Oxford, he initially studied German, not least because of a passion for the philosopher Goethe and German culture in general. However, he subsequently switched to studying politics, philosophy and economics.

Before joining McKinsey and embarking on a business career that eventually led to HSBC, Mr Green worked at a half-way house for alcoholics, where he met his wife, who was also volunteering. An Anglican lay preacher, he writes books while flying on business and is hoping to add Russian to the French and German he already speaks.

Yet his religious inclinations have not stopped him mounting a robust defence of bankers' pay and arguing (at this year's results presentation) that his executive colleagues do not earn enough, despite considerable investor disquiet at the £9m paid to HSBC's investment banking chief, Stuart Gulliver.

At yesterday's AGM, Mr Green dismissed reports that he plans to step down this year. He may not so easily swat aside the pay controversy – 22.6 per cent of HSBC investors either voted against the remuneration report or abstained.