Stuart Gulliver, the incoming chief executive of HSBC, has announced a first phase of top management changes, signalling a sharpened focus for the bank on wealth management, particularly in Asia, and a keenness to shake up the group’s structures.

Mr Gulliver, who replaces Michael Geoghegan in January, himself comes from the group’s investment banking wing but has chosen to make the first executive appointments in the other side of the business.

Paul Thurston, until now chief executive of HSBC in the UK, has been named as global head of a newly combined retail and wealth management division.

Mr Thurston’s UK role will be filled by Brian Robertson, the bank’s current chief risk officer, who in turn will be replaced by Marc Moses, who steps up from his job heading risk in the investment bank.

The appointments are another sign that the prominence of Sandy Flockhart is diminishing. Mr Flockhart, who had been head of a broad-based retail and commercial banking business – and on a par with Mr Gulliver as a potential successor to Mr Geoghegan – was told in September that he was being moved from Hong Kong back to London.

In Hong Kong, Mr Flockhart had been head of Asia and head of global retail and commercial banking. His new role makes him chairman of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and of Latin America, but his operational responsibilities are stripped back to only commercial banking.

People close to the bank were keen to stress, however, that Mr Flockhart remained a key executive responsible for about 30 per cent of profits.

Mr Thurston will be based in Hong Kong, a sign of HSBC’s continued belief that its best chance of growth is in Asia.

A Merrill Lynch/Capgemini report found Asian millionaires were now richer than European millionaires for the first time – with total investable assets of $9,700bn (£6,200bn). Commenting on the appointments, Mr Gulliver said: “Configuring HSBC to realise its full potential in retail banking was always going to be my first priority. With the massive wealth creation we see in emerging markets today, the logic for HSBC to build a world-class global wealth business for our customers is absolutely compelling.”

There are expected to be at least another couple of rounds of big management changes over the coming weeks. Among the questions shareholders have is what Mr Gulliver will do ensure the investment bank continues to run smoothly.

For the time being, the business is being run on a co-head basis by Samir Assaf, head of global markets, and Robin Phillips, head of global banking.

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