A group of unnamed investment bankers at HSBC (HSBC) who say they work within the Global Banking and Markets division launched a scathing attack on their group boss urging the bank to oust him, according to a memo seen by Yahoo Finance.
Addressed to HSBC chief executive John Flint and chairman Mark Tucker on August 25, the group of self-coined “extremely concerned investment banking professionals, directors and managing directors” in the unit, outlined in seven pages how the leadership of division-head Robin Phillips has “year-on-year, utterly failed to create a successful strategy which would have even a chance of succeeding.”
“We are entirely fed up and demoralised and have no confidence at all in the existing leadership,” the group said. “Unlike any other bank, there is no proper and effective route to provide upward feedback: hence this memo, which is whistleblowing on incompetence.”
Throughout the memo, the group went into detail of why they have been driven to write a document, namely because of the alleged leadership of Phillips, backed up with supposed case studies of how his decision-making or behavior has led to a high turnover of staff and impacted the unit’s ability to succeed.
“We have seen a flood of senior banker defections… Does senior group management simply not understand the level of embarrassment and the explicit indictment where this group of UK M&A bankers has quit HSBC for Jefferies? What does that say?” The group added that “all of the juniors are desperate to leave.”
The memo also went on to highlight the group’s underperformance, not only among its peer investment banks but other firms too.
“Based on one metric, we ranked 42nd in M&A: the accounting firms rank well ahead of us. We utterly lack credibility as an investment bank. Our revenues per professional would shame a regional solicitors firm, let alone an investment bank,” the group wrote. “That we have continually underperformed is not exactly news, and is confirmed by HSBC’s financial performance, conversations with investment banking equity analysts, activist shareholders, previous employees, senior investment bankers at other firms, our competitors, head-hunters, and others who know the industry. What is striking is the common themes and uniformity of their response.”
The group pointed to Phillips as the “principal cause” of its “repeated failure” over the last decade.
For the remainder of the document, the group of bankers goes into case study-style detail regarding Phillips’s alleged treatment of staff and how his mistakes have trickled down the business chain, causing supposed “hiring mistakes… ill-thought organisation changes and restructuring” and hurting business development.
In the conclusion, the group called for Phillips’s immediate departure.
“We have wasted (at least) the last decade and a half under Phillips,” the memo said. “Changing things for the better simply cannot be done under the existing leadership. Senior HSBC Group management has to get an immediate grip on this problem or should exit the investment banking business. Robin Phillips and the existing management team should be immediately shown the door and their bonuses should be clawed back because they have been paid under totally false pretenses…”
In a statement to Yahoo Finance, HSBC stood by Phillips and his leadership.
“This is not the Global Banking we recognise. We are proud of our Global Banking business and of what Robin and his senior leadership team have achieved over the past few years,” an HSBC spokesperson said in a statement.
Financial News first reported the existence of the memo.