The head of HSBC's UK wing has been appointed to lead an influential panel at Britain's financial-industry regulator, in spite of recent revelations of questionable practices at the bank.
From 1 August 2015, Antonio Simoes, CEO of HSBC in the UK, will chair the Financial Conduct Authority's (FCA) industry panel. He has been a member of the group for the past two years.
The move comes a day after the FCA's outgoing chief executive Martin Wheatley said at its annual general meeting that he is leaving with "a sense of unfinished business" and is "disappointed to be moving on".
Wheatley's removal as head of the regulator was announced on 17 July after the UK Treasury decided to change the FCA's leadership. He headed investigations into several scandals that involved HSBC and other City banks — including Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland — that had global repercussions and have opened the banks up to class-action lawsuits.
These included colluding to cheat customers on foreign-exchange rates and rigging of interest rates of the London Interbank Offered Rate. It was also revealed in February of this year that HSBC's Swiss banking arm helped rich UK clients, and many others around the world, to avoid taxes and hide millions in assets.
"The Practitioner Panel plays a vital role in ensuring that the voice of industry is heard in the UK's regulatory system," said FCA chairman John Griffith-Jones as he announced the appointment of Simoes.
The HSBC UK CEO will meet regularly with Griffith-Jones and the FCA's chief executive to discuss the panel's emerging concerns with the regulator. The panel was established along with the regulator in 2013 and sees itself as a 'critical friend' of the FCA.
In its recent 2015 Survey, released on 2 July, the panel identified that the most common concern of the largest banking institutions over the next 12 months is "an increase in costs as a result of regulation". Nine out of 10 said they have had to put more money into regulation over the past year.
"More than a third have stated that regulation has increased the cost of a product or caused them to withdraw a product or service," said the report, adding that most believe "regulation will be too burdensome or time-consuming".
In June, HSBC threatened to move its global headquarters from London to Asia and said it would cut 8,000 UK employees. Stuart Gulliver, HSBC's chief executive, and the bank's chairman Douglas Flint have both spoken out against further regulation. Gulliver also criticised the bank levy brought in by Conservative chancellor George Osborne.
Following the summer budget released in early July, in which Osborne said he would phase out the bank levy – and a day before the appointment of Simoes – sources close to HSBC told the BBC that the budget had "softened attitudes" at the bank about whether to leave Britain.