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James Moore: Will Gulliver's HSBC soon be on its travels?

  • @TheIndyBusiness

Outlook Stuart Gulliver got the top job at HSBC after a bout of destructive fratricide that ought to concern regulators just as much as the bank's capital position.

Still, since he took charge there has been just the hint that a modicum of sanity has returned to proceedings at the upper levels of the world's local bank.

Mr Gulliver might have been a boxer in a previous life but he's proved to be a lot less punchy than his predecessor Michael Geoghegan. There was some more sanity on offer yesterday at HSBC's investor day. Starting with its length. Standard practice was a day of windy presentations. That has been cut in half. It could probably be halved again, although that would eliminate the space for self justification and congratulation which bankers seem to need at the moment. Life's tough when you have to make do with Tom Hanks money as opposed to Tom Cruise money.

The content of those presentations indicated the bank is at least looking in the right direction. Instead of deals (10 a year was the run rate) it will focus on dividends. And Mr Gulliver at least says that he recognises that shareholders, who provide the capital for the bank to take risks, ought to receive more than high-flying staff who put that money to use but seem to get rewarded handsomely whatever the result.

That said, while this might be all well and good he still refused to address the elephant in the room, whether HSBC will be domiciled in London, Hong Kong, or somewhere else in the long term. This discussion is apparently "off the table". Given the billions of pounds of indirect state aid HSBC has benefited from, not to mention the state guarantee it continues to enjoy, that really isn't good enough.