Responsible Investor reported today that HSBC has hired Zoe Knight, former senior director of socially responsible investing research at Merrill Lynch in London, for a new role as director of climate change strategy. According to RI, this hire HSBC adds to the recent turnaround in the recruitment of sustainability analysts at investment banks after a cull in numbers during the credit crunch as costs were cut. Rivals including Citi, Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch itself have all been adding to their sustainability teams in recent months as demand for related research grows.
Knight was made redundant from Merrill Lynch after six years in 2009 when the firm cut its dedicated ESG research. As we noted in February 2009, in the wake of the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank announced that it was discontinuing its corporate governance research, JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch moved to end their dedicated ESG research coverage, and Citigroup decided to cut back staff at its in-house ESG research team. As deep cuts were made in research departments across the industry, ESG research departments were hit harder than most.
Nick Robins, head of HSBC’s Climate Change Centre of Excellence, said that Knight’s appointment reflected a rise in client requests for climate research. Earlier this month, Responsible-Investor.com revealed that Merrill was resurrecting its dedicated SRI research team in London and had hired the former co-heads of French investment bank Société Générale’s sustainability team, Valéry Lucas-Leclin and Sarbjit Nahal, to run it.