Regime change is next on agenda at HSBC

Douglas Flint, the chairman, said that plans to replace himself and Stuart Gulliver, the bank’s chief executive, were “well-established”, with speculation mounting that they could be gone by the end of 2017, reports The Times.

Both men were tight-lipped yesterday over their futures. Mr Flint told The Times that there was no timetable for either his and Mr Gulliver’s departure.

“I have a programme that runs until the end of 2017 and will work towards that,” Mr Gulliver told the Financial Times, adding that succession would be “an issue over the next year or so”.

Mr Flint is expected to announce plans for his exit over the next year. He has chaired the bank since December 2010, having previously been its chief financial officer.

Mr Gulliver took over as chief executive a month later and the two men have overseen HSBC through five years in which it has paid billions of dollars in fines and been rocked by allegations over the conduct of its Swiss private banking business.

The replacement of Mr Flint could involve HSBC appointing the first outsider to the chairman’s office. Traditionally the post is handed to a senior executive. Paul Walsh, the former chief executive of Diageo, and Henri de Castries, a former chairman of Axa, are both considered potential successors, having joined the bank’s board last November.

In the case of Mr Gulliver, an internal replacement is still considered the most likely porspect. Until recently, Simon Cooper, head of global commercial banking at HSBC, was thought to be one of the top candidates, but then he was poached by Standard Chartered, an arch-rival.

This has left John Flint, the chief executive of retail banking and wealth management, as the strongest internal replacement, according to company insiders.

With the bank’s choice of domicile now off the agenda, investors could focus again on questions of succession. Last year, a group of large shareholders made an abortive attempt to press for change on the back of frustration at what they saw as underperformance by the bank.

HSBC’s shares rose 6p to close at 446½p yesterday.