Stuart Kirk shared his honest views about climate change, now he’s been forced out of top HSBC job

Stuart Kirk, HSBC Asset Management’s Global Head of Responsible Investing has resigned, less than two months after delivering a controversial speech that called out climate change hyperbole.

He announced the move Thursday morning in a LinkedIn post, in which he said cancel culture is destroying wealth and progress.

“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. 

“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.”

The Stuart Kirk speech

Kirk’s speech – delivered at a Financial Times conference in May – prompted his employer to suspend him just days later.

It was explosive – but not explosive in the context of its pragmatic and well-thought out arguments. Explosive in that one of the world’s top ESG investing executives was publicly breaking ranks and questioning the logic behind the increasing focus on climate change in the world of investing.

“I feel like it’s getting a little out of hand. The constant reminder that we are doomed, the constant reminder that in decades it’s all over. And indeed Sharon (previous conference speaker) said that we are not going to survive and indeed no one ran from the room, in fact most of you barely looked up from your mobile phones at the prospect of non-survival.

“It’s become so hyperbolic that no one really knows how to get anyone’s attention at all.

“Now I wouldn’t normally mind that, 25 years in the finance industry, there’s always been some nut job telling me about the end of the world, I’ve dealt with gold bugs my whole financial career, the roof is going to cave down, Y2K – the lifts didn’t stop.

“But what bothers me about this one is the amount of work these people make me do. The amount of regulation coming down the pipes. The number of people in my team and at HSBC dealing with financial risk from climate change.

“We’ve got a housing crisis looming, we’ve got interest rates going up, we’ve got inflation coming down the pipes and I’m being told to spend time and time again looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years, the proportionality is completely out of whack.

“Human Beings have been fantastic at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies and we will continue to do so… We can solve this through adaption.”

Watch the full speech here.

Stuart Kirk’s next move

Kirk vowed to not be silenced, saying he will continue to call out hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think.

He also indicated that he’ll continue in the asset management industry.

“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. 

“To be announced later this year, 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.

“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. Follow me on LinkedIn if you want to learn the right way to think about ESG – and let me tell you, most of what’s out there is bonkers.”

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