I love the Darwin Awards. For those who are unfamiliar – is anyone not aware of these awards? – they are given to those who remove themselves from the gene pool in the funniest or stupidest manner. My faves include the guy who launched himself in a chair attached to a host of helium balloons, only to find himself in the flight path of the local airport; and the guy who test drove his rocket-powered vehicle in the desert … straight into the side of a mountain.
Shucks but, as they say, what a way to go.
So, it seemed like an idea to introduce an annual Darwin Award for banking. Past winners would have included Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Barings Bank, Northern Rock, RBS and more. But who would be the winner in 2021?
The challenge is that, to be a true Darwin Award, the bank would have to have died in 2021. Whereas, I’m going to say that the Darwin Award for banking is a bank that has shot itself. It may not be dead, but it’s dying. If you frame it that way, there are many Zombie Banks out there, but which one is going to fully meltdown?
I could hypothesize many, but will pick on one.
Not the Hairy-Scary Banking Corporation?
Now I have no vendetta against HSBC, many of my friends work there. It has its ups and downs. It messes up sometimes and does good things other times. Swings and roundabouts. And I’ve blogged about them a lot, and also tweeted a few things about them.
But why would I select this bank for a Darwin Award for Banking?
So what has HSBC done wrong?
A group of investors worth $2.4 trillion suspect HSBC of greenwashing as it continues to fund coal projects despite pledging to go carbon neutral ... analysis by ShareAction found the bank pumped an additional $1.8 billion into fossil fuel companies in the four months leading up its carbon neutral announcement. That makes it Europe's second largest financier of fossil fuels and, despite pledging to go carbon neutral in October, it has yet to publish a strategy on exactly how it will achieve that.
HSBC? Surely not the Hypocritically Sad Banking Corporation?
That was in January 2021 however. Since then, the bank has recognised the issue and promised to change its ways, after both investors and activists like Extinction Rebellion targeted the banks’ AGM.
PIC: Extinction Rebellion breaking the windows at HSBC's London HQ at its May 2021 AGM
In March, the bank said it would phase out the financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining in markets across the EU and the OECD by 2030, and in all other markets by 2040, as well as publish a policy by the end of the year. The steps will become binding if 75% of investors back the move. Wll, shareholders have backed the move at the May AGM meeting, so the bank will be out of fossil fuels by 2040 and also committed to reach net-zero financed emissions by 2050.
Thing is that activists claim we have less than five years to fix the world’s climate issues, so HSBC ... Help Save the Best Climate.
Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...