HSBC is, to put it kindly, a mess. Profit is down. Its biggest shareholder wants it split in two. And it increasingly finds itself in the awkward position of attempting to straddle the growing divide between the West, where it is based, and China, where it got its start and which remains its most important market.
Not unlike ambitious number twos before him—indeed, not unlike his immediate predecessor—HSBC CFO Ewen Stevenson figured this put him in an advantageous position. He is highly regarded and wanted a promotion, and he didn’t care that his boss, CEO Noel Quinn, wasn’t quite willing to make way just yet. And not unlike ambitious number twos before him, Stevenson found that he didn’t have quite as much leverage as he thought, and so, quite unlike the other ambitious number two to whom we’ve been referring throughout, Stevenson won’t become CEO eventually.
Ewen Stevenson, 56 years old, in recent months told board members he wanted to be HSBC’s CEO and didn’t want to wait too long, the people familiar with the matter said. The board was unwilling to provide timing for a change or an assurance that Mr. Stevenson would get the job, the people said….
Mr. Stevenson, well liked by investors and analysts, is leaving at a tumultuous time for the bank…. His exit is the latest sign of executive upheaval at the banking giant. HSBC has cycled through senior staff since Chairman Mark Tucker started in 2017. Mr. Tucker named a new CEO, John Flint, in 2018, leading to the departure of the last CFO, who also had wanted the CEO job.