The former head of MI5 is to step down from the board of HSBC Holdings following his appointment as the new chair of the government’s committee on standards in public life.
Sky News has learnt that Lord Evans of Weardale, who spent more than three decades in the UK Security Service, will retire as a director of Europe’s biggest lender during 2019, and potentially as early as its annual shareholder meeting in the spring.
His decision to step down after nearly six years as a non-executive is understood to have been planned for several months.
Lord Evans’s departure from the HSBC board will come as the bank’s chairman, Mark Tucker, continues to prune it in size following an initial reduction in membership from 17 to 14 last year.
City sources said they believed that Mr Tucker was keen to see HSBC settle on a board of about a dozen directors, with some new appointments said to be in progress.
As the former director-general of MI5, Lord Evans’s experience was seen as critical by Mr Tucker’s predecessor, Sir Douglas Flint, during a period when the bank was subject to a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) with the US department of justice.
The DPA was introduced after HSBC was fined $1.9bn in 2012 for lax anti-money laundering controls which allowed Mexican drug cartels to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars through the bank.
Since his appointment to the board, Lord Evans has chaired HSBC’s financial system vulnerabilities committee and been a member of its nomination and corporate governance committee.
The Sunday Times reported that he was facing criticism for his portfolio of paid business roles after accepting the chairmanship of the committee on standards in public life.
Sir Alistair Graham, one of Lord Evans’s predecessors as chair of the committee on standards in public life, told the newspaper that it was “better that there can be no argument about a potential conflict of interest”.
In addition to his role at HSBC, for which he was paid more than £200,000 last year, Lord Evans holds posts at companies specialising in cybersecurity such as Darktrace.
He is also a member of KPMG’s public interest committee.
HSBC, which has a market value of almost £130bn, is one of a number of UK-headquartered lenders which will in the coming days initiate a far-reaching structural reform recommended in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crash.
Along with Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander UK, HSBC will from 1 January ring-fence their retail operations from their investment banking units.
HSBC declined to comment on Sunday on Lord Evans’s impending departure from its board.