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HSBC's incoming chairman joins the board — with one important task on the horizon

Joumanna Bercetche
Key Points
  • Tucker joins with the view to assuming the chairman role as of October 1 once his predecessor Doug Flint steps down.
  • First task will be to find a replacement for Stuart Gulliver, outgoing CEO.
  • HSBC shares are up nearly 15 percent year-to-date.
HSBC’s next chairman: An outsider who isn't a banker

HSBC's incoming chairman Mark Tucker officially joins the board Friday, with one his first tasks expected to be the appointment a new chief executive for the bank by the end of the year.

Tucker joins with the view to assuming the chairman role as of October 1 once his predecessor Doug Flint steps down. Tucker's appointment in March was an unusual choice for a bank that tends to promote from within its own ranks.

Tucker will be joining from the pan-Asian life insurance group AIA, where he was also chairman for seven years and oversaw the company's record-breaking $17.8 billion IPO (initial public offering) in Hong Kong in 2010.

He was also a non-executive director of the Court of The Bank of England and served as a member of its Financial Stability Committee and Audit and Risk Committee between 2009 and 2012.

Mark Tucker will bring new energy to HSBC: Analyst

One of the incoming chairman's first tasks will be to appoint a new chief executive for the bank as the incumbent Stuart Gulliver has announced he will be stepping down in 2018.

In a break with tradition, Tucker is said to be considering outside candidates for the job. One name that has been touted is António Horta Osório – current chairman of U.K, lender Lloyds - although Osório is set to unveil a three-year strategy for Lloyds next February so appears unlikely to leave his current role.

Other internal contenders include John Flint - who is Gulliver's protégée - and head of the retail banking and wealth management divisions. Also Samir Assaf, head of investment banking as well as Antonio Simoes, the current head of HSBC Europe.

HSBC shares are up nearly 15 percent year-to-date, boosted by stock buybacks and dividends in the last 12 months and a 5 percent rise in pre-tax profit for the first half of 2017. Buybacks occur when a firm buys their own shares trading on the stock exchange, reducing the portion of shares in the hands of investors. They offer a way to return cash to shareholders - along with dividends - and usually coincide with a company's stock pushing higher as shares get scarcer.

HSBC 'shrinks to greatness'

However, the rise in profit follows on from a patchy couple of years for the bank, having been hit by several controversies, namely being fined by the U.S. Department of Justice for money laundering in 2012 and for tax avoidance strategies employed by its Swiss entity. In the U.K., it was also fined for mis-selling PPI (along with other banking counterparts) and was one of the six banks implicated in the Libor-rigging scandal back in 2014.

Flint and Gulliver have since worked hard at turning HSBC's fortunes and reputation around, steering the bank back to a year-on-year profit as per its second-quarter results. However, there are still many challenges ahead including how HSBC plans to deal with increasing amounts of regulation and the fallout from Brexit.

Given 45 percent of HSBC's revenues come from Asia, as well as Tucker's background at the BOE, the new chairman brings in a wealth of relevant experience. Analysts will no doubt be watching closely to see who he unveils as chief executive in the next few months and what strategy the new duo will unveil for Europe's largest bank.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that AIA is an independent listed company.