ALEX BRUMMER: Role models are off the rails as George Osborne leads the pack with a very excessive paycheck
Former Chancellor George Osborne is to receive a payment of £650,000 for four days a month’s work at asset manager BlackRock
One of the better initiatives since the financial crisis is the effort to clean up standards of behaviour across the banking sector but it doesn’t help if those in a position of trust do not behave in exemplary fashion.
The disclosure that former Chancellor George Osborne is to receive a payment of £650,000 for four days a month’s work at asset manager BlackRock seems a trifle excessive. As former finance minister of the world’s fifth largest economy Osborne has knowledge of the secrets of the temple.
The difficulty is that what he knows about plans within the UK Treasury or the IMF is confidential and cannot be shared with anyone let alone a firm which looks after investments of savers around the globe.
Indeed, many pension funds and personal investors paying management fees to BlackRock might question the wisdom of paying big fees to a former chancellor.
As concerning, is the case of deputy governor designate of the Bank of England Charlotte Hogg. She described her failure to disclose that her brother has a top job at Barclays, supervised by the Bank’s Prudential Regulation Authority, as an ‘honest mistake.’ She acknowledges her oral evidence to the Treasury Select Committee was ‘not accurate’.
This is a damaging admission as Hogg previously told the committee that she was responsible, in her previous role, for writing the code of conduct which dealt with disclosure of potential conflicts.
Hogg cannot help that her brother is a top banker but the least she could do was disclose the fact. The issue is a real test of the willingness of the select committee to challenge Bank appointments and the Court – the Bank’s independent board – to enforce high standards of governance.
The view of Court chairman Anthony Habgood is that Hogg had committed a ‘very serious breach’. That might have been a trigger for her to remove her name from consideration. It would not be the first time ambitions of people at the Bank have been thwarted by a Barclays connection.
Former deputy governor Paul Tucker was favourite to replace Mervyn King as governor in 2013. But a taint from the Libor scandal saw him lose to Mark Carney.
In other news: At a time when many fund managers are struggling Aviva saw profits and funds under management rise
Neither Osborne – with his desire to make himself financially secure – or Hogg – with her ambition to rise to the Bank’s highest levels – have done anything intrinsically wrong.
What the ordinary citizen will resent is the sense of privilege and entitlement which enables them to behave in ways which set a poor example to a financial world seeking to clean itself up.
City chieftains sounding like nervous ninnies about Brexit could take lessons from Mark Wilson, the Kiwi who has turned Aviva into a cash-generating machine earning £3 billion of operating profits in the last year.
Wilson recalls how New Zealand had to rebuild trade relationships in the years after Britain abandoned Commonwealth preferences for the EU, and carved itself out bilateral trade deals in the Pacific and beyond. The country has never looked back and would be only too happy to do a fresh deal with Britain.
As far as UK insurance is concerned Wilson is scratching his head over the stupidity of Justice Secretary Liz Truss and officials in her department who have triggered a £380 million hit for Aviva by suddenly changing the discount rate for injury claims.
This more than wipes out savings from a new regime for whiplash claims. Instead, consumers face rises in premiums and the Government gets more in taxes.
At a time when many fund managers are struggling Aviva saw profits and funds under management rise. Aviva has now boosted its regulatory capital sufficiently to pay a higher dividend and is promising a share buyback or some kind of special distribution to investors.
Can’t be bad.
Jan du Plessis is a good chairman to have around when companies are going through transition and, with his arrival at BT, now occupies the top seat in his fourth FTSE 100 board in succession.
No doubt he will do a fine job at BT currently reeling from losses in Italy, a disappointing performance on broadband and the vast sums spent on football rights. One cannot but start to feel that the gene pool for chairmen is too narrow and it is about time boards looked more creatively for fresh talent.