Stuart Kirk. LinkedIn

LONDON – Stuart Kirk, the London banker for HSBC Asset Management who famously called out the ESG movement in a speech in May is now out of a job. He resigned July 7.

The video was posted by the Financial Times. its description says, “HSBC Asset Management’s head of responsible investment Stuart Kirk speaking at the FT Live Moral Money Summit Europe conference, accuses central bankers and policymakers of overstating the financial risks of climate change.”

The speech was entitled “Why investors need not worry about climate risk.” According to the Financial Times, HSBC “suspended Kirk pending an internal investigation.”

The FT noted, “Kirk is a former FT journalist who worked at Deutsche Bank and its DWS asset management business before joining HSBC AM in 2020.”

ESG stands for environment, social and governance, and in the last few years has grown from a hardly noticed appendix at the back of financial reports to a major factor in investing and markets. Yesterday, Crescent Point released its annual sustainability report, for instance.  And that’s where Kirk took issue, despite the fact he concluded, “I agree in the just transition. I agree with the opportunities that exist in all these facets of technology. But it’s a good thing. It’s nothing to be ashamed or scared about.”

He completely disagreed with a presentation given earlier in the day by “Sharon from Deloitte.”

Perhaps his most controversial statements were in his opening. Kirk said, “Climate change is not a financial risks that we need to worry about. Heresy!”

He took multiple swings at climate crusader Mark Carney, former governor of the Bank of Canada and then the Bank of England, saying, “I completely get that there is a competition for funding. I completely get that at the end of your central bank career, there are still many, many years to fill in. You’ve got to say something you’ve got to fly around the world to conferences. You’ve got to out hyperbole, the next guy. But I feel like it’s getting a little bit out of hand.

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“The constant reminder that we are doomed. The constant reminder that within decades, it’s all over. And indeed, Sharon said we are not going to survive. And indeed, no one ran from the room. In fact, most of you barely looked up from your mobile phones at the prospect of non survival.

“It’s become so hyperbolic, but no one really knows how to get anyone’s attention. Now, I wouldn’t normally mind that. Twenty-five years in the finance industry, there’s always some nutjob telling me about the end of the world. I’ve dealt with gold bugs my whole financial career. The roof is gonna cave down. Y2k! Does anyone remember Y2k? Anyone old enough? That lifts didn’t stop.

“But what bothers me about this one is the amount of work these people make me do. The amount of regulation coming down the pipe, the number of people in my team and at HSBC dealing with financial risk from climate change. Last night, Target fell 25 per cent. Twenty-five per cent! And people are asking the board of US companies to spend time dealing with climate risk. I work at a bank that’s being attacked by crypto. We’ve got regulators in the US trying to stop us. We’ve got the China problem. We’ve got a housing crisis looming. We’ve got interest rates going up. We’ve got inflation coming down the pipes, and I’ve been told time and time again looking at something that’s going to happen in 20 or 30 years. Hence, the proportionality is completely out of whack,” Kirk said.

He took on “climate catastrophe” and countered that mankind can and will adapt. “Human beings have been fantastic at adapting to change, adapting to climate emergencies, and we will continue to do so. Who cares if Miami is six metres underwater in 100 years? Amsterdam has been six meters underwater for ages and that’s a really nice place. We will cope with it.”

He gets into GDP arguments, stranded assets and more. It was perhaps one of the most forthright and honest speeches about the financial impact of the climate change crusade in years.

The original video which caused Kirk the headache was posted on May 20. Here’s the video, in its entirety:

And if that’s not enough, under the video on the YouTube page, YouTube included this disclaimer:”

Context

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns, mainly caused by human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels.”

 

About seven weeks after the speech, Kirk was done at his job. He posted to LinkedIn on July 7 the following, noting he had been a victim of cancel culture:

Today I wish to announce that I have resigned as global head of responsible investing at HSBC Asset Management.

Ironically given my job title, I have concluded that the bank’s behaviour towards me since my speech at a Financial Times conference in May has made my position, well, unsustainable.

Funny old world.

Over a 27-year unblemished record in finance, journalism and consulting I have only ever tried to do the best for my clients and readers, knowing that doing so helps my employer too.

Investing is hard. So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ. But humanity’s best chance of success is open and honest debate. If companies believe in diversity and speaking up, they need to walk the talk. A cancel culture destroys wealth and progress.

There is no place for virtue signalling in finance. Likewise as a writer, researcher and investor, I know that words or trading shares can only achieve so much. True impact comes from the combination of real-world action and innovative solutions.

Which is why I’ve been gathering a crack group of like-minded individuals together to deliver what is arguably the greatest sustainable investment idea ever conceived. A whole new asset class. Sounds fanciful – but I am not one for hyperbole, as viewers of my presentation know well.

To be announced later this year, the first project will underline the central argument in my speech: that human ingenuity can and will overcome the challenges ahead, while at the same time offering huge investment opportunities.

Meanwhile, I will continue to prod with a sharp stick the nonsense, hypocrisy, sloppy logic and group-think inside the mainstream bubble of sustainable finance. Follow me on LinkedIn if you want to learn the right way to think about ESG – and let me tell you, most of what’s out there is bonkers.

Finally, can I take this opportunity to thank the tens of thousands of people – from chief executives and congressmen to scientists and mom and pop investors – who contacted me from around the world offering their support and solidarity over the past two months.

You have given me strength during what has been a tumultuous time for me and my family. It is for you that the next chapter in my career will be devoted. Please forward this to anyone you know who cares about money and planet earth.

Stuart

 

  • 0027 TED_NA Helium 2021_30
  • 0028 SIMSA_Energy_Forum_2022
  • 0025 Kendalls
  • 0026 Buffalo Potash Quinton Salt
  • 0024 Southern Bolt Katrina Southern Folk Rock Intro
  • 0023 LC Trucking tractor picker hiring mix
  • 0022 Grimes winter hiring
  • 0021 OSY Rentals S8 Promo
  • 0019 Jerry Mainil Ltd hiring dugout
  • 0018 IWS Hiring Royal Summer
  • 0014 Buffalo Potash What if PO
  • 0015 Latus Viro PO Ad 01
  • 0013 Panther Drilling PO ad 03 top drive rigs
  • 0011
  • 0006 JK Junior
  • 0004 Royal Helium PO Ad 02
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  • 0002
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