The premature departure of the HSBC boss does not inspire confidence, says ALEX BRUMMER

There is something dysfunctional about the management and continuity at HSBC.

CEO Noel Quinn, who spent seven months auditioning for the top job, has decided to quit after less than five years at the helm.

Compare this with the performance of rival global banks. At JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon has been at the top since 2006, Brian Moynihan at Bank of America since 2008 and Bill Winters at Asian rival Standard Chartered since 2018.

Quinn wants a personal break from the top job at the £131bn lender after turning a hatchet to an earlier strategy to be the world’s local bank.

Gone are branch networks in France, Canada, the US and Argentina. The ambition is focused on the core activities in Hong Kong and China. Britain’s HSBC, essentially the old Midland Bank, has moved to Birmingham.

Step down: HSBC CEO Noel Quinn (pictured) has decided to quit after less than five years at the helm

The strategy has worked. The stock price is 15 percent higher than when Quinn took over.

The stock trades at a 60 percent premium to StanChart, which is doing about the same.

In addition to traditional banking, HSBC has extensive investment banking and trading operations serving Asia. It has almost central bank status in Hong Kong, where it is the main conduit between the region and New York.

Doubling the Chinese pre-Covid virus seemed smart. Only since then, China’s growth rate has halved, its real estate sector has declined, and distrust of Beijing’s strategic objectives has led to what amounts to a trade war between the US and China.

None of this is likely to disturb anyone’s sleep at HSBC’s landmark Hong Kong headquarters.

The bank survived the opium wars of the mid-19th century and the Mao revolution and found opportunity under the capitalist renaissance started by Deng Xiaoping.

There is a disconnect between this history of surviving the tumult in the region, including the more recent security measures in Hong Kong, and the recent leadership at HSBC.

Since Mark Tucker took over the chairmanship, it is now facing a third change in leadership. Financial director George Elhedery and Nuno Matos, responsible for retail banking and asset management, are seen as possible successors to Quinn.

Since he expressed his wish to leave around the turn of the year, it is unusual that the board has no successor.

Quinn kept at bay the 8 percent Chinese-controlled shareholder Ping An, which wants a breakup of the bank. His premature departure does not indicate stability.

Copper bottom

Anglo-American chairman Stuart Chambers has a monumental task. BHP has opened the door to a takeover, but the Australian offer is unlikely to be the last word. Chambers rightly consults the shareholders.

A resourceful solution for the London miner would be to determine its own future by producing underperforming assets and doubling its copper consumption without betraying its South African heritage.

As it stands, BHP’s offer is unattractive. It has also irritated South African authorities, who have never forgiven BHP for previous spin-offs.

Other players, including cash-rich Rio Tinto and veteran dealmakers Glencore, will be watching closely.

Copper is the world’s most sought-after commodity and its price is at a two-year high of $10,155 per tonne.

Glencore is a leader in mining metals for use in a carbon-free economy. It is a 44 percent co-owner of the high-altitude Collahuasi mine in Chile, in which Anglo American has an equal stake.

So it has more than a passing interest in what happens next. It is a major producer of cobalt and nickel, which are essential for electric vehicles.

Glencore’s latest projection, amid strong earnings at its trading arm, calls for underlying profits of £2.4 billion to £2.8 billion this year. There is no shortage of firepower.

Good game

The importance of supporting the UK video games industry was highlighted last year during Microsoft’s battle for Activision Blizzard.

Gaming employs 25,000 creators in Britain and contributes £3.7 billion to GDP.

Industry body TIGA is urging the next government to put it on par with the films, with an Independent Tax Games Credit and an accelerator program to support early-stage developers. Sounds logical.