The first two rules of Fight Club, according to the film of the same name, are “You do not talk about Fight Club” and “You DO NOT talk about Fight Club”. Studies of corporate success follow the opposite code. Since Tom Peters and Robert Waterman published In Search of Excellence in 1982, readers have not stopped talking about whether the lessons taught by such books are valid.
I struggle to see any logic behind the European Parliament’s latest initiative to crack down on financial industry pay, beyond a dislike of bonuses. The idea that investment funds should be treated similarly to systemically important banks has even less merit than the original idea.
The basis on which the EU proposed to rein in bank bonuses – despite UK opposition and criticism from supervisors including Andrew Bailey, the incoming head of the Prudential Regulation Authority – was that excessive bonuses gave bankers a perverse incentive to take risks.
HSBC’s strategic overhaul is already heading for a place in the business school curriculum. This was, after all, the group that called itself “the world’s local bank” in its advertising campaigns and once relocated its chief executive to its traditional Asian hub in Hong Kong. But current, (firmly London-based) incumbent Stuart Gulliver has more modest international ambitions.