HSBC urges staff to speak up on incidents after misconduct case

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HSBC’s new head of global markets is encouraging a speak-up culture, months after his predecessor left the bank amid a misconduct claim from a junior female employee.

“Our values and conduct, how we treat each other and how we encourage and embed a speak-up culture in an environment of trust should be at the forefront of everything that we do,” Georges Elhedery, who is starting in his new role this month, said in a memo sent to staff in his division on Friday and seen by Bloomberg. HSBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The HSBC headquarters building stands illuminated behind the Hong Kong Observation Wheel. Bloomberg News

Reported cases of alleged harassment have spread throughout the business world, including finance, building pressure on companies to improve their handling of misconduct claims. HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, has joined UBS and Credit Suisse in setting up new ways for staff to report these issues.

Elhedery’s predecessor, Thibaut de Roux, left the bank last September after a junior female employee accused him of inappropriate conduct at a hotel bar in New York, people with knowledge of the matter had said. The London-based executive allegedly behaved improperly with the employee, who flagged it to the lender’s human resources department, one of the people said at that time. The bank had announced in a memo to staff in mid-September that de Roux would be retiring from banking.

‘Healthiest human system’

HSBC has also refreshed its conduct website for global banking and markets staff this week, aiming to strengthen the unit’s “conduct and behaviors,” according to details seen by Bloomberg. The bank is striving to create “the healthiest human system in global markets,” Elhedery said in the memo.

Last year, UBS said it would set up a confidential hotline for employees to flag sexual misconduct complaints after an allegation that a London-based trainee was raped by a more senior employee.

Credit Suisse also put in place new disciplinary procedures to tackle incidents of sexual harassment.

Global banks also face greater scrutiny on their gender diversity policy. HSBC’s annual report showed that only 20 percent of senior leadership roles in global banking and markets are held by women, the lowest ratio of all the bank’s major divisions.

Bloomberg News


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