HSBC chairman appointed Britain's trade minister

7th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

HSBC chairman Stephen Green is quitting to become Britain's trade minister, Downing Street said Tuesday, as the government seeks to boost commercial ties with fast-growing economies.

Green, who spent 28 years at Asia-focused HSBC, one of the world's biggest banks, will take up the job of Minister of State for Trade and Investment early next year after leaving his current role before the end of 2010.

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted" to appoint Green to a "vital role."

"With Stephen's experience and expertise, I know he will make an invaluable contribution towards this crucial agenda, helping to drive strong economic growth in the UK."

Cameron's coalition government, which took power in May, has stressed the importance of boosting Britain's trade with countries such as India, China and Russia as it recovers from recession.

Green will join Britain's appointed upper parliamentary chamber, the House of Lords, in order to serve in government.

The 61-year-old banker, who is also an ordained minister in the Church of England, described the unpaid appointment as an "honour."

"In an increasingly competitive and international world, trade and investment are ever more critical to Britain's economic success and I am delighted to be joining the government at this exciting and challenging time," he added.

Green will report to Business Secretary Vince Cable and Foreign Secretary William Hague. His is the final remaining job to be filled in Cameron's government. Cameron had reportedly struggled to fill the role.

It is not the first time that a senior business figure has been appointed to serve the British government.

Cameron's predecessor Gordon Brown brought in figures including Paul Myners, a former chairman of department store Marks and Spencer.

HSBC meanwhile said that its non-executive directors had been looking at the issue of replacing Green "for some months."

It added: "It was always the board's intention that it would be in a position to approve a successor to Mr Green before the end of the year, and that timetable remains on schedule."

Green has been HSBC chairman since 2006 after working as the bank's chief executive for three years. As chairman he steered the bank through the financial crisis without having to call upon state funds.

He leaves the bank in rude health after HSBC doubled its first-half net profits to 6.76 billion dollars as it slashed US bad debt and raised earnings in emerging markets.

HSBC, founded in Hong Kong and Shanghai in 1865, sees Asia as its most important region.

Reflecting that view, chief executive Michael Geoghegan relocated to Hong Kong from London earlier this year, although the group remains headquartered in the British capital.

Geoghegan on Tuesday said it had been a "pleasure" to work with Green.

"This appointment shows the respect in which both Stephen and HSBC are held. For HSBC it is business as usual; I continue to run the company," he added. The share price of HSBC was down 0.12 percent at 662 pence in late deals on London's FTSE 100 index, which was down 0.68 percent.

© 2010 AFP

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