James Crosbie’s background is mathematics and insurance. He only joined Halifax Building Society (as it then was) in 1994, and even then he was part of the Life Assurance division. I worked with Crosbie and others for six years, so I do know that of which I speak.
Dennis (Lord) Stevenson comes from a background in Parliamentary lobbying and market research, where his partner was Peter York of Sloane Ranger fame. Together they founded SRU, with whom I also worked on and off for many years.
Andy Hornby was first with BCG consulting, and then – having specialised in retail marketing – he joined Asda. He was only briefly and disastrously at HBOS, and then left to go to Coral…which, like HBOS, was also in the betting business – albeit taking them rather than making them.
This trio, literally, did not know what they were doing. Crosbie – a prime mover in the demutualisation of Halifax – asked me just before the public launch why I was against the idea. I told him graphically and at length. He sat and smirked at me for twenty minutes. I’ve only met Dennis a few times, but everything he knows about the dangers of investment banking could be written on the backside of a 1 euro coin. And Andy had never worked in finance at all until he arrived at HBOS as Chief Executive.
These blokes are plausible chancers, nothing more. Arrogant and ignorant. The Independent this morning calls them ‘worse than Fred Goodwin’. I disagree. Goodwin – like Bob Diamond – was part of the industry. The nicest thing you can say about these latter two terrifyingly empty guys is that they should’ve known better.
Goodwin is a chartered accountant by training: a number juggler whose talent for making things look good met an obsession with leverage. He is an archtetype of the bright banking idiot. His purchase of ABNAmro prompted me in 2007 to call him ”….a vain and silly man who has – in purchasing ABN Amro – paid far too much to buy something of no commercial use. In the City last week, not a single person whose opinion I rate could find one sound business reason for the deal; and thus we are drawn inexorably to the conclusion that Sir Badloss must have a very small penis indeed.’
Bob Diamond is a classic Ivy League product who went almost immediately into banking with Morgan Stanley, and then rose within Barclays investment division Barcap. Described by a New York judge five years ago as “a man dealing in dubious evidence who needs to be kept on a short leash”, The Slog hounded Black Bob for many years: he was, quite obviously, a serious risk-taker and a gentleman whose behaviour suggests he recognised few limits.
This duo (and myriad others like them from Lloyd Blankfein to Jamie Dimon) are the soi-disant professionals who cost the world £27trillion and counting through their frontal lobe behaviour syndrome. Another one is the UK Treasury’s favourite person, Stephen Hester of RBS.
Hester began his career in 1982 with Credit Suisse, and in 1996 was appointed to the executive board. Hester held the position of Chief Financial Officer and Head of Support Division, until May 2000. From May 2000 to September 2001, he was Head of the Fixed Income Division. In May 2002 he joined Abbey National as Finance Director. Later he was brought in by Alistair Darling to mop up after Northern Rock (run by another untrained idiot-chancer, Adam Applegarth). Now Stevie is busy running RBS, whose product staff on his watch defrauded over 1500 SME customers in various guises, and whose technical staff seem to keep on suffering highly profitable glitches. I’ve also been on Hester’s case for some time now.
I say, “Ignore the HBOS three, they were just clowns”. They are – like Jimmy Savile in the paedophile sector of our increasingly depraved culture – handy distractions from the serial villains. All of them are still free, and very few of them deserve to be.