Kirk is laughing in our po-faces ; and he’s infuriating!

Is climate our problem – or theirs?

Cat Rutter-Pooley captures HSBC’s the embarrassment of Stuart Kirk’s 16 minute rant at a recent  event

There is a narrow problem here for the bank, about who knew how much about the talk and what their response was. The best-case scenario for HSBC is perhaps that no one scrutinised it very carefully. Worse would be if they read it and failed to appreciate the upset it would cause. The better the internal checks, the bigger the issue for the bank.

The FT are both sides of this fence, Kirk is an ex FT reporter, he was speaking at an FT event. This week happens to be the week of the PLSA investment conference. No doubt internal controls will be being checked so that journalists don’t have the opportunity to find another (Captain) Kirk.

Kirk may not have been a leader of the bank or even of HSBC asset management but he was and is seen as a thought leader – or was until he was suspended from his role as “Global Head of Responsible Investment”.

Banks finance short term projects, bonds issued rarely have durations that will sustain outstanding debt to 2050. Investments in public and private equity are not assessed for valuation purposes over the timeframes considered by the climate calamatists.  Kirk says our problem is that we are in the employ of organisations geared to shorter term horizons than the likes of Mark Carney (and indeed everybody else). To use another of Cat Pooley’s comments

Banks take hugely varying approaches in their commitments to tackling climate change. But there’s at least one point of consensus. You have to be seen to be taking it seriously.

Here I suspect is where the outrage begins, because – as Dan Mikulskis points out, Kirk delivers his 16 minutes with the self-satisfied smirk of someone who has total self-belief. Kirk told a stunned audience  that throughout his 25-year career in the finance industry

“there was always some nut job telling me about the end of the world”,

he likened  the climate crisis to the Y2K bug that predicted a widespread computer glitch at the turn of the millennium. His presentation included the statement

“Unsubstantiated, shrill, partisan, self-serving, apocalyptic warnings are ALWAYS wrong,”

But in a much broader sense Kirk is so very wrong that Dan cannot but take hours out of his Sunday (better employed with the kids) to write what Stuart Kirk could have said .

I suspect it is because there is a selfish gene in everyone (and it laughs at us as Kirk does) – wouldn’t we all love a bit of the upside that energy stocks would bring to our investments? Kirk is asking serious questions of all of our motivations. And the worst of it is that he is shamelessly unapologetic. He laughs in our po-faces.

While Kirk’s may be a lone public voice, I’m sure is not the only one in the industry expressing such views in private. That points to a broader issue about the work the banking and asset management sector has to do to win the climate argument internally.

Cat Rutter Pooley concludes….

To deal effectively with the broader societal problem of climate change, banks and asset managers have to incentivise their employees to look beyond a short-term professional horizon. That is a cultural question for institutions to solve.

Or to use a famous dictum of Captain James T Kirk

Conquest is easy. Control is not.

As I travel up on the train to Edinburgh today, I’ll be pondering whether the complaints of Kirk are justified. Is there too much emphasis on disclosure and are we really focussing on the wider impact of what banks and asset managers are supposed to do.

Where’s Captain Kirk?

And if you are under 55, or if you weren’t into the zanier end of punk, here’s a tune for you. I am agreed on one thing – we should never take Captain Kirk too seriously!

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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5 Responses to Kirk is laughing in our po-faces ; and he’s infuriating!

  1. Rob Collins says:

    Henry I think you will find there is an L in public!

  2. henry tapper says:

    Thanks Rob, now updated!

  3. don’t agree with everything he said, but hsbc wrong to cancel free speech. they can have more than one room in their house. interesting that it happened at the same time as black clergy candidate rejected for disagreeing with Black lives matter

  4. Jnamdoc says:

    Very McCarthy like Henry. Those who react most vociferously against the thoughts of others tend to do so under some sense of moral superiority but often without basis. Whether he is right or wrong is not the point, his views should be welcomed and debated. I agree with the concerns on de-platforming – many I have discussed this with have a sympathy to at least understand the debate, but feel they can’t raise their heads on this for fear of the woke repercussions.

  5. Dr+Robin+Rowles says:

    The problem with all of this is that global warming isn’t the problem. Global warming is just a symptom of the problem. As any medical doctor knows, curing symptoms only makes the problem worse because it hides it! The real problem is that there are far too many people on the planet. Until we are prepared to accept this and reduce ALL birth rates to substantially below the death rates, nothing we do will help. Our planet will just wither and die. Not in our lifetime, probably, but in earth terms, quite soon!

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