(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, File)
INTERNATIONAL - HSBC Chief Executive Officer John Flint stepped down on Monday as the bank deemed a change necessary at the top to tackle the increasingly complex and challenging global environment.

The lender said in a press release that Flint's departure was by mutual agreement with the board. However, his exit after being CEO for 18 months was considered a surprise.

Noel Quinn, HSBC's head of global commercial banking, assumes the role of interim CEO until a successor is appointed. Flint's departure came amid an announcement of rising profit in the first half of the year, with reported profit before tax up 15.8 percent to $12.4 billion and reported operating expenses down 2.3 percent.

However, speaking about progress on 2020 financial targets, the bank expressed concern that the outlook has changed, as US interest rates expected to fall rather than rise and geopolitical issues could impact a significant number of its major markets, compounded by uncertainties of Brexit.

"Today's positive interim results particularly reflect John's achievements as group chief executive," HSBC Chairman Mark Tucker said. "HSBC is in a strong position to deliver on its strategy.

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," Tucker said.

Flint said the "good interim results" indicate that "this is the right time for change, both for me and the bank." 

XINHUA