Cancel culture is growing more prevalent in the financial industry, with a prominent HSBC Holdings executive being its latest victim.
At a Financial Times conference in May, the British banker said that central bankers are inflating the financial risks of a climate crisis in an effort to “out-hyperbole the next guy.”
“But what bothers me about this one is the amount of work these people make me do, the amount of regulation coming down the pipes” to deal with the financial risks of climate change, he said during the conference.
The bank promptly suspended his job after his presentation sparked backlash from climate activists.
“Investing is hard. So is saving our planet. Opinions on both differ,” he continued. “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.”
Honesty and CourageFrom an investing standpoint, Kirk disagrees with the premise that climate change will create winners and losers in the financial markets. He believes that renewable stocks will not always outperform coal stocks, since a variety of factors will shift the dynamic.
During his presentation in May, he also argued that valuations of many companies with stranded assets, including those in the technology sector, don't take into consideration anything that happens beyond 20 years.
For example, the typical loan duration at a large bank such as HSBC is six years, Kirk explained.
“What happens to the planet in year seven is actually irrelevant to our loan book,” he said.
According to Kirk, the finance industry faces numerous threats that are more alarming than climate change.
People on social media responded to his speech, with some applauding him for his honesty and courage and others criticizing his “outrageous” presentation debunking climate science.
In his resignation announcement, Kirk said that he’s embarking on a new project with “a crack group of like-minded individuals” to deliver “the greatest sustainable investment idea.”
Violation of US Law?Cancel culture, in recent years, has taken center stage in public discourse in education, politics, media, culture, and business. Some large banks have also adopted the practice by canceling the credit cards and bank accounts of people and businesses in the United States, with the fossil fuel and firearms industries being major targets of late.
HSBC declined to comment about Kirk’s decision.
Prior to his speech at the conference, the presentation's theme and content were reportedly approved by the senior executives of HSBC, according to the Financial Times. However, these top officials later distanced themselves from Kirk, stating that his remarks didn’t reflect the views of the bank and its leadership.
"Our ambition is to be the leading bank supporting the global economy in the transition to net zero,” Noel Quinn, group chief executive at HSBC wrote on LinkedIn.
A Republican senator expressed alarm with HSBC's conduct, questioning its legality.
“I am concerned that this episode may involve breaches of United States law,” Daines said in his letter.