Ex-spy boss Sir Jonathan Evans to help HSBC in fight against financial crime

Bank hires former head of MI5 to clean up its act after being fined by US authorities

It sounds like a plot from a novel by Dame Stella Rimington: bank hires former spymaster to help catch sinister international criminals blamed for damaging its reputation.

Except that this is a true story. HSBC has hired one of Dame Stella’s successors as chief spymaster at MI5 in the form of Sir Jonathan Evans.

Sir Jonathan has been appointed to help Britain’s biggest bank to clean up its act after US authorities fined it nearly $2bn (£1.3bn) for acting as a conduit for Mexican drug money and sanctions busting.

He will earn £125,000 for serving on HSBC’s Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee as well as joining its board as a non-executive director. The fee for the part-time roles compares to the £159,999 he was paid for his role at the head of Britain’s domestic spy agency in 2010, which was the last time it revealed his salary.

Sir Jonathan will put in 36 days a year for his work on the board, plus an unspecified number of extra days sitting on the committee, which will meet at least eight times a year.

The committee was set to help the bank identify areas where it could be exposed to financial crime, as HSBC battles to restore a reputation that was badly tarnished by the Americans’ findings.

Banks are increasingly being asked to take a leading role in the battle against financial crime, by spotting suspicious activity and alerting the authorities when they see it. Those that fail to take that role seriously can expect to be heavily penalised.

HSBC avoided criminal charges from the US Department of Justice only by signing a deferred prosecution agreement but was placed on probation for five years, and it is now operating on a very short lead with US authorities.

In response, it has increased the control the centre of the organisation has over its far-flung businesses, and sold subsidiaries in numerous “peripheral” territories.

Announcing the appointment yesterday, HSBC chairman Douglas Flint said that Sir Jonathan’s expertise would “be of considerable value to the board as it addresses its governance of systemic threats”.

The bank’s critics put a less flattering spin on the hire. David Hillman, spokesman for the Robin Hood Tax Campaign, which wants banks to be charged a financial transactions tax, said: “It shouldn’t be a surprise that someone who used to work in the shadows has been recruited by a sector that often operates in them. If a bank looking to clean up its act expects the appointment of a spy to do the trick, then they have another thing coming.”

Colleagues of Sir Jonathan on the committee include former deputy US attorney general Jim Comey, Bill Hughes, a former head of Britain’s Serious Organised Crime Agency, and Dave Hartnett, the controversial former head of HM Revenue & Customs.

Other banks have made similarly high-profile hires as they seek to clean up their acts in the wake of the a string of scandals. Barclays appointed Hector Sants, the former chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, as its head of compliance and government relations, while Royal Bank of Scotland made Jon Pain, another former senior watchdog, its compliance chief.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living