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The Goldman Sachs veteran brought in to shake up HSBC’s investment banking business is leaving the lender after only 18 months.
Matthew Westerman, co-head of HSBC’s global banking division, is stepping down with immediate effect, the bank told staff on Thursday morning.
His departure marks another change of course by HSBC in its faltering attempts to break into the top ranks of global investment banks, which it has pursued in vain ever since hiring John Studzinski from Morgan Stanley in 2003.
Mr Westerman was known internally for his demanding work ethic and abrasive style. A number of bankers have left HSBC since he took over, including Spencer Lake, its former vice-chairman of global banking and markets, and Ulrik Ross, HSBC’s global head of public sector and sustainable debt.
One London-based banking analyst, who asked not to be named, said Mr Westerman had ambitions to succeed Stuart Gulliver as chief executive, a job that was given to HSBC’s retail banking and wealth management boss John Flint last month.
“It is a bit of a surprise, as the impression we got was that he was a big name hire when he came in and he was seen as being in the running for the CEO job when that came up this year,” said the analyst. “One factor in him leaving may be that he was overlooked for the top job.”
However, a person familiar with the situation said that Mr Westerman’s departure did not relate to succession.
In the memo, Samir Assaf, HSBC’s head of global banking and markets, thanked Mr Westerman for the “significant contribution he has made to re-shaping global banking”. Robin Phillips, Mr Westerman’s co-head, will now be sole head of the division.
Mr Westerman’s departure was first reported by Bloomberg.
He spent 16 years at Goldman, rising to become chairman of its investment banking division in Europe, before joining HSBC in May 2016. He already knew HSBC and Mr Gulliver well, having for many years acted as the UK-listed bank’s corporate broker while at the US bank.
The London-based analyst said there seemed to have been a “power-struggle” at HSBC’s investment bank since Mr Westerman arrived and “perhaps he hasn’t had the influence he would have hoped for”.
At an investor day in June to present an updated strategy for the global banking and markets division, of which investment banking is part, Mr Westerman had been “more in the background” than expected, according to the analyst.
One former HSBC investment banker, who left the group recently, said Mr Westerman had been given free rein to hire and fire. But after ousting several senior people, he quickly found the cash was not available to make the big name hires he wanted.
Mr Gulliver is due to hand over to Mr Flint after presenting the bank’s annual results in February. While Mr Gulliver was known for having a “posse” of close allies who he promoted to top roles after he took over, Mr Flint has largely steered clear of internal politics.
“He’s very even-keeled, so I could name several people who John may promote to be in his top team but I couldn’t be sure about any of them,” said one senior investment banker at HSBC.