News Mar 15, 2017 06:12 AM EDT

HSBC breaks tradition, names AIA boss Mark Tucker as chairman

By April Kirstin Chua

HSBC has appointed Mark Tucker as chairman to replace Douglas Flint according to a statement released by the bank on Sunday. The chief executive of the Asian life insurer AIA Group will take over on October 1 and is the first outsider to take on the role that breaks an HSBC tradition.

One of Tucker's first duties as chairman of the London-based bank is to lead the search for a replacement of HSBC chief executive, Stuart Gulliver, who plans to retire this year.

The recent appointment came after a year since HSBC announced that it had started efforts to replace Flint, who has been chairman since 2010. Flint, 61, arrived at HSBC in 1995 and later joined the board as group finance director.

"We are delighted that in Mark Tucker, we have secured someone who possesses the rare combination of experience demanded by the HSBC board," Rachel Lomax, HSBC senior independent director, said in a news release. Sam Laidlaw, HSBC chairman of the nomination committee, commended Tucker's long track record of successful leadership of complex financial services businesses in both Asia and the UK.

The decision of hiring Tucker, an outsider, makes sense as his expertise follows the bank's business strategy. While HSBC is Europe's biggest bank, many of its profits are generated in Asia.

Richard Dunbar of Aberdeen Asset Management told BBC that HSBC obviously decided that an external perspective would be useful to them this time. He added Tucker's contributions while the latter was chief executive of Prudential by doing a good job of expanding its Asian assets.

In recent years, HSBC has significantly reshaped its operations by cutting more than 40,000 jobs and selling off its businesses. Still, the bank's profits dipped more than 60 percent last year. The banking industry has faced challenges of very low-interest rates over the course of time and that problem has made lending money less profitable. For HSBC, moving into less risky areas of banking since the financial crisis in 2017 has made matters worse. 

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