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HSBC boss knighted despite bank’s controversial links to China

Mark Tucker, chairman of HSBC, speaks in New York last month
Mark Tucker, chairman of HSBC, speaks in New York last month - Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

The chairman of HSBC has been awarded a knighthood despite previously facing criticism over the bank’s controversial ties to China.

Mark Tucker, who has chaired HSBC since 2017, was given the award for services to the economy in the King’s birthday list after a decades long career in insurance and banking.

Mr Tucker, 66, has been a high profile figure in Asian business since the 1990s and has steered HSBC through the recent diplomatic chill between the West and China.

While he has overseen an improvement in the bank’s share price and profits in recent years, HSBC’s actions in Hong Kong have been heavily criticised as Beijing has exerted an increasingly authoritarian grip on the region.

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Mr Tucker was severely criticised three years ago by a coalition of international politicians after HSBC froze the accounts of a pro-democracy activist from Hong Kong, Ted Hui, and his family who fled to Britain.

At the time, more than 50 members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance in China wrote to Mr Tucker demanding an explanation. He refused to meet the group.

Iain Duncan Smith, who led the initiative, said HSBC still had questions to answer over the matter.

He said: “HSBC froze the accounts of people from Hong Kong who had come to the UK at the behest of the Chinese government, but when it comes to knighthoods in the UK they love being listed in London.”

HSBC makes more money from customers in Hong Kong than the UK and as such still maintains strong ties to China despite the geopolitical tensions.

As part of his role running the bank, Mr Tucker is a frequent visitor to Shanghai and often meets senior Chinese government officials.

Since he took over as chairman, HSBC has been forced to walk a political tightrope.

UK-China relations are the worst they have been in decades, with Beijing suspected of being behind the recent hacking of the Ministry of Defence in a major data breach.

Mr Tucker is well regarded in financial circles and known for his ferocious work ethic. HSBC recently posted its best ever financial performance and many shareholders consider him one of the most capable chairman in finance.

He rose to prominence as chief executive of Prudential before joining AIA, an Asian insurance giant.

Mr Tucker currently splits his time between London, New York and Hong Kong and sits on the Court of The Bank of England and the board of Goldman Sachs.

A former professional footballer, Mr Tucker had a spell playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers and is an avid Chelsea supporter.

He is due to step down from the bank in 2026 and is currently hunting for the third HSBC chief executive during his tenure after Noel Quinn announced his plans to retire.

Mr Tucker’s four predecessors in the chairman role have all been honoured: Sir William Purves, Sir John Bond, Lord Green and Sir Douglas Flint.

HSBC declined to comment.