My intended quiet return to do something very part time, very non-executive for an unlisted 100% owned subsidiary of an HSBC company seems to have been derailed rather. But there we are - it happens - or some such expression!
I thought that rather than making a big fuss - not my preferred style anyway - I would just get on with it but there are now a few stories emerging, as they do, so I thought a brief note should answer most of the questions raised so far - and maybe answer some that are still "back of mind".
Firstly; Am I completely nuts? Undoubtedly!
I mean let's face it, who in their right mind would return to an industry that is still on the top of everyone's "hate list", and to a region where political strife, battlefields and "hit lists" are the current order of the day? So - to paraphrase Teresa Norton's old SCMP column opening line ... "Yes, I must be nuts!".
Much has been made of my "return from retirement". Technically correct of course insofar as the Bank is concerned, but I have hardly been retired for the last six years and have maintained an active working lifestyle, as those around me will testify. In particular my friends in PricewaterhouseCoopers where I will be remaining as Senior Adviser, but also a variety of other institutions.
My term with the Dubai International Financial Centre Authority (DIFCA) - which I have thoroughly enjoyed, was coming to its natural end this coming month. I think five years is a good run, they have a sound base from which to go forward, and we will part on mutually excellent terms.
Will I relocate to the Middle East? Actually, when I became Chairman of the DIFCA many in Hong Kong thought I had moved to the Middle East then. I am still surprised by people asking me if I am in town for long, from the Middle East.
Fact! I never moved to the Middle East, and will not do so now. Hong Kong is my home, and it is where I am staying.
What is my role? It is as non-executive Chairman of HSBC Bank Middle East Limited (HBME). The Bank, as I stated above, is an unlisted 100% subsidiary of the Holding company. Previous Chairmen of HBME have come from Executives within the HSBC Group, and therefore as a non-executive I believe I bring an additional degree of independence (those who know me will say very independent) to their deliberations backed by a 40+ year association with the region. My role is to run an effective Board and ensure, with my fellow directors, that the Bank's policies and strategies in the Middle East are proceeding in line with the Group's stated aims - as well as providing advice where I can.
Why am I doing it - or as one person wrote to me - "don't you like the idea of retirement"? Indeed - a good question. I could say, "because I want to, and I can" but that sounds a bit too flippant, even for me. How about, "Because I enjoy working and being active, while I can"?
After Stuart Gulliver knew I was coming to the end of my time with the DIFCA, which was after he had become CEO of the HSBC Group, he asked if I would have any interest in taking on the role in HBME. It was as simple as that. Stuart knows my background in the Middle East and he is, like me, also aware of the growing synergies between the Middle East and Asia - where I also have a bit of experience.
Happily, my contacts in the Middle East have remained over the years, I am still able to put one foot in front the other and am not totally gaga; (other than agreeing to take the role on at all, of course!)
And there you have it!
I hope that I will contribute satisfactorily once again to HSBC (of which I remain a shareholder!) - and that we can get through what is undoubtedly going to be an interesting and difficult time in the region.