London: HSBC Holdings is set to replace Chief Executive Michael Geoghegan with Stuart Gulliver, the head of its investment bank, and name its finance director as chairman, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
The Financial Times, citing two unnamed people close to the bank's board, said Geoghegan would quit by the end of the year, at the same time that Finance Director Douglas Flint takes over as chairman.
The changes at the top of Europe's biggest bank would come after two weeks of wrangling over who would become its new chairman after Stephen Green said he would step down to become Britain's trade and investment minister in January.
Geoghegan, 56, had threatened to leave after reacting badly when he was told at a meeting last week that the board was not ready to give him the chairmanship, the FT reported earlier this week. The bank dismissed that report as "nonsense."
Europe's biggest bank had been expected to decide at a board meeting in Shanghai on Wednesday on a replacement for Green. The changes would also need approval by regulators.
HSBC has in the past prided itself on its succession strategy, and has a history of promoting its CEO to the chairmanship.
Replacing Flint as finance director will be Iain Mackay, a senior executive from the Asia-Pacific operations, Sky News reported.
HSBC declined to comment.
Gulliver, 51, will be the second investment banking chief to be named the new CEO of a top British bank this month, after Barclays said Bob Diamond will take the helm next year.
That appointment was slammed by some politicians, who said investment banking -- dubbed "casino banking" by some critics -- was taking too big a role at the big banks.
Gulliver, a 30-year veteran of the bank, has been groomed as the next CEO since taking a wider role as head of all European operations earlier this year, when Geoghegan moved the CEO's office to Hong Kong.
He is well respected in the City for refocusing HSBC's global banking and markets arm on debt financing and emerging markets, after it failed in an attempt to take on Wall Street's biggest names. He has been co-head or run the investment bank arm since 2003.
Flint, 55, is respected among investors after his long stint as finance director for having a firm grasp on the financial complexities of a bank spanning 86 countries.
The succession process has been led by senior independent director Simon Robertson, and reports of rifts has shocked the City used to calm transitions at the bank.
Geoghegan and former Goldman Sachs banker and HSBC non-executive John Thornton had been seen as the front-runners to become chairman, and the battle has unsettled the board, according to reports.
First Published: Friday, September 24, 2010, 09:31