Tue. Jan 18th, 2022

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

Elhedery, who manages the London borrower’s global trading arm, told staff in a memo on Friday that “in view of my own personal development and growth, I have been considering taking a sabbatical for several years”. He added that since the investment bank largely reached 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 market side of the unit from March until Elhedery’s return in September.

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

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

Nuno Matos, CEO of Wealth and Personal Banking, Barry O’Byrne, CEO of Global Commercial Banking and Nicolas Moreau, Head of Asset Management, all made the move in a timely manner.

However, Guyett did not move last year and given his temporary extended role – and the fact that many international flights to Hong Kong suspended due to the area’s “zero Covid” policy – its move has now been postponed until at least September.

Some staff members were surprised at why he did not move as promised last April, but an official confirmed he still plans to do so.

Guyett’s inability to move earlier illustrates the problems facing China’s zero Covid policy on the operations of global companies.

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

Like many of its peers, HSBC enjoyed an increase in investment banking services revenue during the Covid crisis, driven by high levels of M&A and debt issuance, government support measures and easy monetary policy.

Guyett and Elhedery were tasked with turning the unit around after being criticized for years of underperformance and declining market share. While the rise in earnings in 2020 and early 2021 helped revive the unit, in the third term performance still lagged behind European competitors, such as Barclays, and the Wall Street banks.

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

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

“Sabbath leave is one opportunity to find time to focus on things that sometimes prevent our work obligations. . . I look forward to a break, ”said Elhedery.

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