HSBC has announced internally that its co-head of investment banking, Greg Guyett, will assume sole oversight of the bank’s entire advisory and trading division during his counterpart, Georges Elhedery’s six-month sabbatical. .
Elhedery, who heads the London-based lender’s global trading arm, said in a note to staff on Friday that “from the perspective of personal development and growth, I have been considering taking a sabbatical for several years.” He added that since the investment bank had largely met its 2022 year-end strategic goals a year early, now was the best time to pause.
Guyett, who heads capital markets and M&A advisory operations, will now also oversee the markets side of the unit from March until Elhedery returns in September.
Patrick George, Head of Markets and Securities Services for Europe and North America, Monish Tahilramani, Head of MSS Emerging Markets, and Suzy White, MSS Chief Operating Officer, will lead day-to-day operations and report to Guyett, according to the memo.
Separately, Guyett and three other senior executives were supposed to move to Hong Kong last year as part of a sweeping strategic overhaul that would symbolically “shift the heart of the business to Asia”, as the director described it. General Noel Quinn at the time.
Nuno Matos, Managing Director of Wealth and Personal Banking, Barry O’Byrne, Managing Director of Global Commercial Banking and Nicolas Moreau, Head of Asset Management all made the trip on time.
However, Guyett did not move last year and given his temporarily expanded role – and the fact that many international flights to Hong Kong are suspended due to the territory’s ‘zero Covid’ policy – his move has now been postponed until at least September.
Some staff were puzzled as to why he hadn’t moved as promised last April, but a manager confirmed he was still planning to.
Guyett’s inability to move sooner illustrates the difficulties presented by China’s zero Covid policy on global business operations.
Hong Kong’s outbound travel ban to slow the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has left many financial and business executives stranded out of town if they return to the United States or the UK for Christmas.
Like many of its peers, HSBC has benefited from increased investment banking revenues during the Covid crisis, spurred by high levels of M&A and debt issuance, government support measures and a accommodative monetary policy.
Guyett and Elhedery were tasked with turning the unit around after it was criticized for years of underperformance and declining market share. While rising earnings in 2020 and early 2021 helped boost the unit, in the third quarter performance still lagged European rivals, such as Barclays and Wall Street banks.
While it’s rare for someone of Elhedery’s seniority to take a sabbatical, especially in the competitive and cutthroat world of investment banking, HSBC allows it if certain criteria are met and the veteran 17 years old qualifies.
“I am fortunate that HSBC allows colleagues at all levels to be absent from the business for a short period of time. . . I plan to spend my six month break with my family in various parts of the world and explore a number of personal interests,” Elhedery added in the memo, saying he had Quinn’s support.
“Sabbaticals are an opportunity to find time to focus on things that our work commitments sometimes prevent. . . I can’t wait to take a break,” Elhedery said.