Stuart Kirk has resigned from his role as global head of responsible investments atHSBC Asset Managementstating companies need to "walk the talk" on climate change.
Kirk (pictured), who wassuspended from his positionon 23 May following a controversial presentation at a Financial Times conference, said the bank’s behaviour towards him since the event has made his position “unsustainable”.
He said in a statement: “Today I wish to announce that I have resigned as global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management.
“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.
“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.”
Speaking at an FT Moral Money event on 19 May, Kirk questioned whether it was the financial market’s job to worry about the climate, adding “what bothers me about this one is the amount of work these people make me do”.
The presentation, which the Financial Times reported was signed off by HSBC AM, caused a shockwave across the industry with many quick to criticise Kirk.
However, in a scathing statement, Kirk hit back at the asset manager and the industry while announcing the launch of the “greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived”.
“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.
“There is no place for virtue signalling in finance. Likewise as a writer, researcher and investor, I know that words or trading shares can only achieve so much. True impact comes from the combination of real-world action and innovative solutions.”
Kirk added during his suspension he had assembled a “crack group of like-minded individuals” to develop a new asset class underlining the central argument in his speech: “that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities”.
“Meanwhile, I will continue to prod with a sharp stick the nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance,” he added.
HSBC AM has launched several climate ETFs over the past 12 months. Its Paris-aligned ETF range is now six-strong havinglaunched its firstin July 2021, theHSBC MSCI World Climate Paris Aligned UCITS ETF(HPAO), which has seen its assets grow to £124m in the 10 months since coming to market.
HSBC declined to comment.