Top HSBC Risk Head to Take Sabbatical as Bank Faces BOE Warnings
29 Nov 2019

HSBC Holdings Plc’s head of operational risk, who has been in the role for almost six years, has asked to take a sabbatical.

Mark Cooke, whose role involves overseeing non-financial risks such as financial crime, staff misconduct and compliance breaches, has requested a sabbatical, the bank said in an email. Cooke’s responsibilities will be assumed on an interim basis by Jason Davey, another senior risk manager at the global lender, it said.

Cooke’s planned absence comes as HSBC deals with a second warning from the Bank of England over how it handles non-financial risks and a broader overhaul of the bank’s operations after the ouster earlier this year of former Chief Executive Officer John Flint. In April, the Asia-focused bank set up a group-wide program under Pam Kaur, head of wholesale market and credit risk, to deal directly with non-financial risk.

It’s not known when Cooke asked the bank for his leave. Sabbaticals at HSBC typically last between three and six months and employees are paid for the first month of their leave, according to a policy posted on HSBC’s website.

“We have a global sabbatical policy for employees who have worked for five years or more,” said Morgan Bone, a spokesman for HSBC. “It’s entirely inappropriate for us to comment on individuals’ motivations and intentions for their planned sabbatical.”

Cooke is responsible for “the vision and direction for the management of non-financial risk at HSBC,” according to his LinkedIn profile. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his LinkedIn account.

British authorities have indicated the lender hasn’t done enough to tackle non-financial risks, an issue that was discussed in a recent staff call led by investment banking head Samir Assaf, Bloomberg News has reported. Speaking on a conference call this month, Assaf, HSBC’s head of global banking and markets, told employees in the division that the lender was warned about failings in its handling of non-financial risks last year and again this year. The Bank of England declined to comment.

By Harry Wilson and Stefania Spezzati, Bloomberg, 27 November 2019

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