HSBC finance chief likely candidate for chairman

HSBC finance director Douglas Flint (AFP file)

LONDON (AFP) – HSBC finance director Douglas Flint is emerging as the likely candidate to replace Stephen Green as chairman, a report said Thursday, citing people close to the bank's board.

A choice between the two men previously regarded as frontrunners -- chief executive Michael Geoghegan and former Goldman Sachs banker John Thornton -- is proving too difficult for the bank's board, said the Financial Times.

The FT reported this week that Geoghegan, 56, had threatened to resign after it was suggested Thornton, a non-executive director at HSBC, might be given the top job at the global bank.

"It is nonsense that (Geoghegan) threatened to resign unless he was appointed chairman," an HSBC statement carried by Dow Jones Newswires said.

"The suggestion is offensive to Mike (Geoghegan) and to the company," it said.

"As previously stated, the board is working under due process to finalize HSBC's succession plan following Stephen Green's already-announced departure and this proceeds in line with the scheduled timetable."

It was now likely that a compromise candidate will be appointed, the FT said Thursday, citing three people close to the bank's board.

Flint was the most likely candidate, they said, adding Geoghegan's apparent threat to quit had lessened Thornton's chances of winning the top job.

Elevating the finance director to the chairmanship would allow Geoghegan to remain as Hong Kong-based chief executive.

The role of chairman at HSBC opened up when Green was appointed Britain's trade minister earlier this month. He will take up his new role in early 2011.

The succession is due to be decided at a board meeting in Shanghai next Tuesday, according to the FT.

Green is leaving the bank in rude health after steering it through the global financial crisis without taking a government bailout.

HSBC, founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, sees Asia as its most important region although it remains headquartered in London.

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