HSBC investment bank co-head to take 6-month sabbatical

HSBC has internally announced that its co-head of investment banking, Greg Guyett, will assume sole oversight of the bank’s entire advisory and trading division during the six-month sabbatical of his counterpart, Georges Elhedery.

Elhedery, who runs the London-based lender’s global trading arm, said in a memo to staff on Friday that “with a view to my own personal development and growth, for several years I have been considering taking a sabbatical”. He added that since the investment bank had largely hit its year-end 2022 strategic targets a year early, now was the best time for the break.

Guyett, who leads the capital markets and M&A advisory operations, will now also oversee the markets side of the unit from March until Elhedery’s return in September.

Patrick George, head of markets and securities services for Europe and North America, Monish Tahilramani, head of MSS emerging markets and Suzy White, chief operating officer of MSS, will run trading day to day and report to Guyett, according to the memo.

Separately, Guyett and three other top executives were supposed to relocate to Hong Kong last year as part of a sweeping strategic overhaul that would symbolically “move the heart of the business to Asia”, as chief executive Noel Quinn described it at the time.

Nuno Matos, chief executive of wealth and personal banking, Barry O’Byrne, chief executive of global commercial banking and Nicolas Moreau, head of asset management all made the move on time.

However, Guyett did not relocate last year and considering his temporarily expanded role — and the fact that many international flights into Hong Kong are suspended because of the territory’s “zero Covid” policy — his move has now been delayed until at least September.

Some staff have been puzzled as to why he had not relocated as promised last April, but an official confirmed he still plans to do so.

Guyett’s inability to move any sooner illustrates the difficulties presented by China’s zero Covid policy on the operations of global companies.

Hong Kong’s ban on international travel to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant has left many financial and corporate executives stranded outside the city if they returned to the US or UK for Christmas.

Like many of its peers, HSBC has enjoyed a surge in investment banking revenues during the Covid crisis, boosted by high levels of M&A and debt issuance, government support measures and easy monetary policy.

Guyett and Elhedery were tasked with turning around the unit after it was criticised for years of underperformance and declining market share. While the surge in earnings in 2020 and early 2021 has helped revive the unit, in the third quarter performance still lagged behind European rivals, such as Barclays, and the Wall Street banks.

While it is rare for someone of Elhedery’s seniority to take a sabbatical, especially in the competitive and unforgiving world of investment banking, HSBC allows them if certain criteria are met and the 17-year veteran qualifies.

“I feel fortunate that HSBC allows colleagues, at all levels, to take a short period away from the business . . . I plan to spend my six-month break with my family in various parts of the world as well as explore a number of personal interests,” Elhedery added in the memo, saying he had Quinn’s support.

“Sabbaticals are one opportunity to find time to focus on things our work commitments sometimes prevent . . . I’m looking forward to a break,” said Elhedery.

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