On Thursday, Scotland may set out on the bumpy path to independence from the rest of the UK. Its banking system is likely to work only if it is braver and more far-sighted than Alex Salmond, the Scottish National party leader, during the campaign.
British bank customers are hearing a lot about a 19th-century Scottish cleric called Henry Duncan, who opened the world’s first savings bank in 1810, from Lloyds Banking Group and TSB, the latest descendant of the good vicar’s pioneering idea.
But the origins of “new TSB” are less inspiring than those of its ancestor. It is the brand attached to bank branches the European Commission has forced Lloyds to separate out as a condition of the group’s post-crisis government bailout. In due course, Lloyds is expected to float TSB on the stock market. Read more
Add another episode to the saga of the overworked modern chief executive: Akzo Nobel announced on Tuesday that Ton Büchner, appointed to the Dutch company only in April, will take a “leave of absence” having been “diagnosed with temporary fatigue“.
It is all reminiscent of Lloyds Banking Group’s decision to give António Horta-Osório, the UK company’s chief executive, a rest last November, to get over insomnia and exhaustion. The Portuguese CEO has since recovered – sufficiently to trounce the FT’s banking editor at tennis a couple of months ago. Read more
Lloyds Banking Group’s decision retrospectively to reduce the 2010 bonuses of senior executives involved in mis-selling loan insurance is a sign of the increased risks that bankers are starting to face personally.
The move strikes me as appropriate: it is an effective sanction against bankers over-selling high-margin products that will earn them big bonuses but turn out to be bad for customers. But the implications for the individuals involved, and for the industry as a whole, are serious.
It has the effect of turning “bonuses” – a form of profit-sharing that most investment bankers have come to rely on for most of their income – into actual bonuses. In other words, provisional payments on which no individual can depend.
The fact that bonuses may be clawed back will make it much more risky to spend them on property or other things. Logically, they now ought to be kept in savings or shares for at least three years while there is a possibility they could be taken back. Read more
By James Mackintosh, investment editor
Arise, Mr Fred Goodwin. The banker who single-handedly brought down the British banking system has had his knighthood stripped away, and no one is sorry. Politicians, the public and the press are united in supporting the move against the former chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland.
The pitchfork-wielding mob is wrong. Read more
Politicians would like to think that Stephen Hester’s decision to give up his bonus marks the start of a mass renunciation of “excessive pay” by private sector bosses. It is certainly time the UK corporate and political world moved on and refocused on what is really important: i.e. how to restore growth. But far from starting a trend, the Royal Bank of Scotland CEO’s case is unique. Here are three reasons why: Read more
Speculation about António Horta-Osório’s condition will not end now that Lloyds Banking Group has announced the “full recovery” of its ailing chief executive and heralded his return to the job on January 9. Sir Win Bischoff, chairman, told journalists on Wednesday that the cause of the CEO’s sudden enforced departure in November was physical – overwork, sleep deprivation and exhaustion – but “certainly not stress”. Each director has met the chief executive separately and judged him fit to return, as have independent medical experts.
Asked how Mr Horta-Osório seemed to him now, Sir Win replied: “Very well, very well, very well. Bushy tailed. Terrific. Big smile.”
In other words, just as he seemed – to me, to other commentators, and probably to Sir Win - when he was appointed last year. For directors, and shareholders – which include UK taxpayers through holding company UKFI – the important thing is to ensure that Mr Horta-Osório does not suffer any relapse. Sir Win said on Wednesday he was confident his CEO was fit, but if it turned out he wasn’t, he intimated that his own job as chairman would be on the line. Read more
I have two immediate reactions to the shock announcement that António Horta-Osório is temporarily stepping aside as chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group because of stress. One is frivolous, one serious:
1) His predecessor – the eerily impassive Eric Daniels – must have the constitution of an ox, given that he led the big UK bank through the credit crunch, a controversial merger with HBOS and the 2008 government recapitalisation. (Mr Daniels is a smoker, which I suppose may have helped calm his nerves).
2) The rarity with which top executives admit to suffering stress must mean boards are underestimating the occurrence of stress-related illness at the top – with potentially dire consequences. Read more
Some have attributed Nick Clegg’s proposal to give every British voter a share in the UK’s state-owned banks (floated during a trade visit to Rio de Janeiro) to a combination of jet lag, domestic political calculation and Copacabana sunstroke. But the UK deputy prime minister’s suggestion has a long pedigree – longer than perhaps even he recognises. Read more