HSBC could bring Portuguese flavour to CEO search

Mark Tucker: Inside out

Two schools of thought are emerging about who should be the next chief exec of HSBC, now that the bank has landed Mark Tucker, boss of Hong Kong insurer AIA and the former head of the UK’s Prudential, as its next chairman.

School of thought number one says: Tucker, sometimes abrasive, always no-nonsense, and an outsider to the mysterious ways of the group formerly known as the world’s local bank, will need a smooth and competent insider as CEO. In this scenario, there are two options: John Flint, the safe-pair-of-hands favourite, and António Simões, younger, more thrusting and Portuguese.

School of thought number two has a Portuguese flavour too. António Horta-Osório, the famously tough CEO of Lloyds, has let it be known, so City Insider hears, that he is pretty interested in the HSBC job (now that Lloyds is on the up, and the government’s stake is all but sold). He lacks the Asia know-how that you might hope for in an HSBC boss, but the choice of Tucker as chairman alleviates that weakness.

A couple of non-execs quite like the idea apparently. Added to which the insurance man knows Horta-Osório pretty well. They served together for several years on the court of the Bank of England. They’re pretty similar in character, though, so some think a partnership might not work. But if it did, HSBC wouldn’t know what had hit it.

Simon Samuels: Respect

Mifid II and other regulatory reforms are spurring the development of a clutch of independent advisory firms. The latest sees three former Barclays executives and an asset manager from Putnam teaming up to found a modern-day corporate broker.

Simon Samuels, a long-time banks analyst who has consulted across the sector since leaving Barclays a few years ago, has reunited with Mark Merson, the bank’s deputy finance director, and former emerging markets banks analyst Cristina Marzea, as well as Putnam’s David Morgan.

Samuels, now also a senior fellow at Cass Business School and a contributing columnist to the FT, reckons there’s a growing market for candid advice from experts who don’t have the same agenda to push deals as your typical bulge-bracket investment bank would.

City Insider’s many resident Latin experts disagree on what the consultancy’s name, Veritum, is seeking to convey. It was supposed to signal the communication of truth to power, but may send more of a “fear and respect” message, say the pedants. Still, with banks struggling to appeal to investors in the post-crisis world, those are pretty appropriate watchwords too.

Co-operative Group: Washed-up

Chocolate maker Cadbury — accused this week of ditching Easter in its marketing of seasonal events — is not the only company to have been left with egg on its face ahead of the Paschal period.

On Thursday Steve Murrells, new boss of the Co-operative Group, had to apologise for an advert the retailer ran. “Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up,” read the ad. Cue a spate of online outrage from those pointing out that sons should be expected to wield a Spontex and a tea towel, too.

On his maiden results call with journalists, Murrells was challenged by a bastion of feminist values (aka the Daily Mail) to defend his position. “We fixed it very quickly,” was his riposte. “Mrs Murrells will have me doing the washing-up at the weekend.”

Though surely the mutual’s online electrical store can get a dishwasher delivered to Cheshire within 48 hours.

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