Georges Elhedery had solely been again from sabbatical for simply over a month when HSBC forged him as inheritor obvious to the chief government.
He had returned in September from six months of “personal development”, which included studying some mandarin, in what appeared a uncommon hiatus for such a senior banker.
Weeks later, HSBC introduced that the 48-year-old would exchange Ewen Stevenson as chief monetary officer from January, a step up from his earlier position as co-head of the funding financial institution and a transparent sign he was forward within the race for the highest job.
“We certainly weren’t expecting the [management] change,” mentioned Hugh Young, Asia chair of Abrdn, a shareholder. “Anyone who is CFO would be a potential CEO candidate.”
Elhedery should now show his value as finance chief throughout a testing interval for HSBC because it shifts sources away from Europe and the Americas whereas battling calls from its largest shareholder to separate the financial institution’s Asian and west operations.
His elevation on the finish of October may need taken the market abruptly, however his colleagues say he has paid his dues heading operations within the Middle East, markets and funding banking.
“To lead the markets business, you have to be very bright and credible,” mentioned a senior HSBC banker. “I think it was quite a surprise when he took time out, but people respected that.”
Sam Johar, of government search agency Buchanan Harvey, mentioned: “The change of CFO has unsettled the market, but undeservedly so, in this case.”
Elhedery’s promotion has additionally fuelled hypothesis that he’ll ultimately exchange chief government Noel Quinn, who mentioned final week that the administration adjustments have been all about succession planning, earlier than including that he had no intention of “stepping down any time soon”.
His predecessor, Stevenson, had been thought among the many candidates to succeed Quinn and senior HSBC bankers counsel he walked as a result of he realised he was not in line for the job. Stevenson didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
His exit has cleared a path for Elhedery however different senior bankers may nonetheless be in his method.
“There are three who are potential chief executives,” mentioned a former HSBC board member. “Georges; Nuno Matos, who’s in Hong Kong running wealth globally and did a fantastic job cleaning up [the bank’s operations in] Mexico; and Colin Bell, who is chief executive of Europe. Of the three, Georges must be the lead candidate, because you get to trial him as the CFO in front of investors.”
Apart from fostering some inner competitors, the succession planning will guarantee chair Mark Tucker can keep away from a repeat of the controversy when he ousted former chief government John Flint in 2019 and left the place unfilled for seven months earlier than Quinn’s appointment.
Elhedery grew up in Beirut, to a retail banking father and a faculty trainer mom, earlier than shifting to France to review on the elite Parisian engineering faculty, the École Polytechnique. He then reduce his enamel on the buying and selling ground in Germany doing an internship at Caisse Des Dépôts, a French public sector financial institution.
Those who know him properly describe a extremely smart and personable banker.
“He’s fluent in Arabic, French, English, German and Spanish,” mentioned a former HSBC banker who labored carefully with Elhedery. “He just did [mandarin] for fun. That’s the type of guy he is. He’s also a keen snowboarder and has a pilot’s licence. He doesn’t shirk the big decisions — he’s very pragmatic.”
Before becoming a member of HSBC in 2005, Elhedery had labored at Goldman Sachs and Paribas.
Once within the door, he shortly rose by way of the ranks working for the likes of Samir Assaf, his predecessor on the funding financial institution, and Mohammad Bin Mazyad Al-Tuwaijri, a Saudi Arabian politician who was the previous head of HSBC’s Middle East, North Africa and Turkey enterprise from 2010 to 2016.
Elhedery received plaudits internally for his position in slicing $100bn of threat weighted belongings forward of time after being tasked with the plan in 2020 as co-chief government of world banking and markets. That success additionally helped earn his sabbatical.
In the transient interval between getting back from sabbatical and third-quarter outcomes, Elhedery labored carefully with Quinn on particular tasks, the small print of which haven’t been divulged. Before his break, he led work on digital belongings and was concerned with a challenge on central financial institution digital foreign money.
The shake-up at HSBC and Elhedery’s ascent comes because the financial institution is more and more torn between China and the west and as its largest shareholder Ping An, the Chinese insurance coverage firm that has greater than an 8 per cent stake within the financial institution, calls on it to spin off its Asia enterprise.
“HSBC is positioned as a bridge between East and West — sadly for them the gulf between the two has widened sharply in the last year or more. Not easy!” mentioned Young at Abrdn.
Elhedery will likely be primarily based in London as chief monetary officer. And whereas his HSBC profession spans 17 years, Elhedery has not run a enterprise in Asia for the financial institution, which might show one other problem, amid calls from Ping An to give attention to the area.
The insurer this week complained that a variety of senior HSBC bankers didn’t have ample expertise of working in Asia whereas making its requires a cut up public for the primary time.
Fostering good relations with Ping An will virtually definitely be excessive on Elhedery’s to-do record. At the very least, will probably be an opportunity for him to place the mandarin he picked up throughout sabbatical to good use.