HSBC has parted company with its chief executive of 18 months, John Flint, despite crediting his tenure for a surge in half-year profits.
The bank said he had gone immediately and by “mutual agreement”.
Chairman Mark Tucker told investors a change was needed to “meet the challenges” HSBC faces globally, including a turnaround in the US.
It did not elaborate but the Reuters news agency, citing a source, said differences of opinion had emerged over strategy – the main one being a softer approach by Mr Flint to cutting expenses and setting revenue targets for senior managers to boost profit growth.
HSBC said group managing director Noel Quinn would become interim chief executive while the search begins for Mr Flint’s successor.
The bank said it could take between six months and a year to complete an appointment.
Mr Flint’s departure was announced as HSBC reported a 16% leap in profits for the first six months of the year to £10.2bn.
Like RBS last week, which said its profits had been boosted by the merger of the Saudi British Bank (SBB) and Alawwal bank, HSBC said its bottom line benefited to the tune of £681m because of its interest in SBB.
Pressures included a fresh £506m provision for the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI) in the UK.
HSBC’s Asia-traded shares were down 1.5% on its announcements as it maintained a flat dividend but said it intended to mount a fresh share buy-back shortly of up to $1bn.
It highlighted twin risks to its outlook from the US-China trade war and weaker interest rates in key markets.
The statement said: “The outlook has changed. Interest rates in the US dollar bloc are now expected to fall rather than rise, and geopolitical issues could impact a significant number of our major markets.”
Mr Flint’s departure took centre stage in analyst reaction because the announcement was so unexpected.
The HSBC lifer said: “I have agreed with the board that today’s good interim results indicate that this is the right time for change, both for me and the bank.
“After almost 30 years with HSBC, I will be sad to leave but I do so looking forward to a new personal challenge, and confident that our people will continue to serve the bank’s stakeholders in the best possible way.”
He was thanked by Mr Tucker, who added: “In the increasingly complex and challenging global environment in which the
bank operates, the board believes a change is needed to meet the challenges that we face and to capture the very significant opportunities before us.”