Former No.10 chief of staff cleared to work at HSBC

Edward Lister will start at investment banking giant next week after six-month “pause” proposed by watchdog
Edward Lister cheers on new prime minister Boris Johnson in July 2019, alongside the PM's then-girlfriend Carrie Symonds. Photo: Jamie Lorriman/Alamy Stock Photo

By Jim Dunton

22 Sep 2021

Prime minister Boris Johnson’s former chief of staff is to become a senior adviser to the group chairman of investment bank HSBC Holdings after the government’s anticorruption watchdog gave the move its backing.

Eddie Lister – formally known as Lord Edward Udny-Lister – was Johnson’s chief of staff for five of the PM's years as London mayor, and was drafted into Downing Street on an interim basis after Dominic Cummings’ dramatic departure from No.10 in November last year.

Lister handed over the baton to new chief of staff Dan Rosenfield at the beginning of this year and subsequently served as a Johnson’s special envoy to the Gulf before leaving that role in April. He is due to start working at HSBC on Monday, when he will support group chairman Mark Tucker and other senior leaders “by providing advice on international business issues”.

The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which polices the post-government roles of former ministers and top officials, said it had imposed additional restrictions on Lister – which included advising him to wait six months before taking up the role.

That timeline suggests Lister sought Acoba’s guidance at around the time the scandal surrounding the lobbying activities of Greensill Capital – and former prime minister David Cameron – was gathering pace.

In its advice letter, the watchdog noted the Cabinet Office said the “seniority and broad scope” of Lister’s role at No.10 meant there were “significant risks”about the former adviser’s access to information and the potential for him to offer an unfair advantage to future employers.

Acoba said it shared the Cabinet Office’s concerns, but also noted that Lister was subject to the Official Secrets Act and his duty of confidentiality to the crown. It added that Lister had stated his new role was predominantly Far East-focused and would not involve lobbying the UK government – which business-appointment rules ban former crown servants from doing for two years after they leave office.

Lister said his duties at HSBC would include creating a“bespoke briefing and training programme on the firm’s global operations, delivered in weekly segments”; introductory meetings with the firm’s leaders in the UK, Hong Kong and key overseas markets; familiarisation with key global clients; and work to develop an “ambassador at large” role.

Acoba’s approval for Lister’s new role also requires him to have no contact on behalf of HSBC with No.10 or the Chinese government. He is also required to avoid advising HSBC or its clients on any policy he had connection with in government for two years after he left office. Additionally, he is prohibited from advising HSBC or its clients on bids to work with the UK government.

“Given the unknown nature of some of the work he conducts for HSBC, the committee considered it would be appropriate to impose a condition to prevent him from advising HSBC where it involves working on matters he had any involvement with in office,” Acoba said.

HSBC’s Tucker said he was “delighted” to have someone of Lister’s experience supporting the business as it looked to “enhance our client offering in the UK and around the world”.

Lister said he considered it a “great privilege” to work with one of Britain’s “largest and most successful global companies”.

Acoba’s advice letter said Lister had confirmed he had no dealings with HSBC or involvement with policy decisions or development that would have had relevance to the business during his time in No.10.

However he accepted that there had been “general exposure” to issues related to Hong Kong and restrictions imposed on HSBC by regulators in the United States.

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