Stuart Kirk, the HSBC Asset Management responsible investing head who was suspended by the group for publicly dismissing climate change, has resigned from his post saying his record is “unblemished”.
In a statement posted on LinkedIn today, Kirk said he was resigning as global head of responsible investing following the bank’s behaviour towards him since the comments were made at a Financial Times conference in May, which he said has made his position “unsustainable”.
He also blasted “cancel culture” and what is going on in ESG as “bonkers”.
“Investing is hard,” he said. “So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ. But humanity’s best chance of success is open and honest debate. If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress.”
He also hinted at his next venture “to be announced later this year”.
“I’ve been gathering a crack group of like-minded individuals together to deliver what is arguably the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived. A whole new asset class. Sounds fanciful – but I am not one for hyperbole, as viewers of my presentation know well.
“The first project will underline the central argument in my speech: that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities.”
Kirk also promised to “continue to prod with a sharp stick the nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance”.
Beau O’Sullivan, senior campaigner for Bank on our Future, said: “This is what accountability looks like. You can’t downplay the very real impacts of climate change and hold a senior position at an institution currently making those impacts worse through its financing decisions.
“HSBC now has everything to prove to show that it does take climate change seriously, by putting an end to its financing of fossil fuel expansion and supporting the growth of renewable energy instead.”
Kirk had been head of responsible investing at HSBC since July 2021, overseeing the asset management arm’s ESG investment and developing new products.
Kirk found notoriety in May when at a talk entitled ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk’ at an FT Moral Money conference he dismissed concerns of rising sea levels, complained about having to spend time “looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years” and made comparisons between climate concerns and conspiracists.
Accompanying slides to his presentation read: “Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong”.
He was suspended by the bank pending further investigations while HSBC CEO Noel Quinn distanced himself from the comments by posting on LinkedIn that they were “inconsistent with HSBC’s strategy” and “do not reflect the views of the senior leadership of HSBC or HSBC Asset Management”.