HSBC is overhauling its boardroom as it deals with the twin challenges of a Swiss tax scandal and considering leaving the UK.
A week before a strategic review expected to lead to up to 20,000 job cuts, the bank named Irene Lee and Pauline van der Meer Mohr as non-executive directors.
They do not directly replace any individuals on the board, which will now have 19 members. But Rona Fairhead, the former Pearson executive who chairs the BBC Trust, is to leave before next May. Her role has been in focus following revelations that HSBC’s Swiss arm helped customers evade tax because she chaired the bank’s audit and risk committee at the time the scandal took place.
Other longstanding non-executives on the HSBC board include Sir Simon Robertson, the former Goldman Sachs banker, and Sam Laidlaw, the former boss of Centrica.
Lee – who sits on the board of the Hong Kong arm of HSBC – is a member of one of Hong Kong’s richest families and chairs property developer Hysan Development. She is a non-executive director of Cathay Pacific Airways and China Light & Power and will join the board next month. Van der Meer Mohr is a lawyer and the president of Erasmus University Rotterdam. She will join in September.
They will receive £95,000 a year for their part-time positions. The appointments come at a time when the bank is considering whether to shift its head office from London, where it has been since 1992. The methodology for considering whether to move is to be set out next week at a strategy day being fronted by the chief executive, Stuart Gulliver.
Revelations in the Guardian and other publications in February about the way HSBC’s Swiss arm helped customers evade tax have damaged the reputation of the bank, Gulliver has admitted. His own links to the Swiss bank and use of a Panama company were exposed at the time.
Reuters reported that prosecutors in France were calling on judges to uphold a €1bn bail on the bank to cover a potential fine for helping customers dodge tax. The bank also faces three lawsuits from investors who incurred £22bn of losses in the runup to the financial crisis.
Gulliver is also under pressure to bolster returns to shareholders who will be expecting to see details at the strategy day of how he intends to pull back from underperforming countries and cut costs by axing jobs.
Since he took the helm in 2011 the workforce has already shrunk from 300,000 to 257,000 and more job losses are now expected.
This article was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 2nd June 2015 17.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010