Stuart Kirk, global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management (HSBC AM), has announced his resignation on LinkedIn today.
The move, he claims, follows a controversial speech he delivered in May about ‘Why investors need not worry about climate risk’, which had subsequently led to his suspension from his role.
“Ironically, given my job title, I have concluded that the bank’s behaviour towards me since my speech at a Financial Times conference in May has made my position, well, unsustainable. Funny old world,” he said in his post.
“Over a 27-year unblemished record in finance, journalism and consulting I have only ever tried to do the best for my clients and readers, knowing that doing so helps my employer too.
”Investing is hard. 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 stated.
Kirk’s presentation was peppered with provocative remarks such as that central bankers like Mark Carney were trying to “out hyperbole the next guy” and “who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years, Amsterdam’s been six metres under way for ages and that’s a really nice place”.
His LinkedIn profile does state that he “actually love[s] Miami”, and several commentators have subsequently pointed out that Amsterdam is two metres below sea level, not six, and that an extra four would push 80% of the Netherlands below sea level.
Kirk has received several messages of support on his decision to leave HSBC AM, with Burchell Wilson, senior economist at Blackwell Strategies, going as far as stating: “Your resignation looks suspiciously forced and I’m sure the deed of settlement prohibits you from expressing your full thoughts on the matter.”
Wilson said: “HSBC executive cancelled for speaking the truth about ideological investing. Ideologies do not tolerate dissent and they do not tolerate intellectual inquiry. Kirk’s sin was to ask basic questions of a virulent strain of activism that is subverting the allocation of global capital in pursuit of ideological agendas.”
Wilson added: “ESG investing threatens to lead to the misallocation of capital on a huge scale and in turn undermine the retirement savings of tens of millions globally. The “resignation” [read: sacking] of Stuart Kirk confirms we are dealing with a dangerously intolerant ideological movement. HSBC’s executive leadership have disgraced themselves by forcing the resignation.”
In his post, Kirk announced he would be involved in a new project soon to be disclosed.
“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,” he wrote.
To be announced later this year, the project will underline the central argument in Kirk’s speech: “that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities”.