Man behind the putsch: 'I'm the forward guard for a much bigger machine'

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The Independent Online

Stefan Allesch-Taylor left school at 18 and entered stockbroking. It was Black Monday in 1987 and he admits that for five years he thought he had caused the stock market crash. Now he is advising the would-be managers of HBOS on how they can help the bank survive an even greater crash.

Sir Peter Burt, Bank of Scotland's governor when it merged with Halifax to form HBOS, turned to him to help block Lloyds TSB's takeover. "We met a couple of years ago," says Allesch-Taylor, who was setting up a company offering insurance to pension funds with deficits. "I tried to pick his brains."

The Gibraltar-based Tactica Assurance was launched last year, with Sir Peter as chairman and Allesch-Taylor his deputy, amid talk of raising £1bn and floating by 2010. "The market got in the way of that," Allesch-Taylor admits, but he likes opportunities and the markets now offer the chance for Sir Peter to return to his old bank.

Sir Peter may be big in Scottish banking – like former rival Sir George Mathewson, the ex-chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland who is backing the anti-Lloyds campaign – but both look up to the 6ft 10in Allesch-Taylor. The adviser is big in other ways, too, though snaps: "I'm actually 17 and a half stone, not 20."

Allesch-Taylor, 39, has had a varied career. After school at Giggleswick, he started at stockbroker Cawood Smithie in Harrogate. A spell in advertising, when he chose comedian Harry Enfield to front a Dime Bar campaign, prompted his move to London. And while visiting the Cromwell Road Sainsbury's in west London, he noticed an adjacent block of flats and made a £2m offer – only to be gazumped. But the episode gave him a taste for property and he took over Worthing Premier Properties, changing the name to STG – Stefan Taylor Group (the Allesch comes from an Austrian father he did not know).

He admits to being more a financial engineer than a developer, but selling his stake in three schemes gave him £2.5m and he bought control of Nasdaq-listed Internet Holdings in 2000. He went into broking at the top of the stock market and his move to property was also followed by a crash. "Now I'm getting into the internet, maybe that industry should start panicking," he said in March 2000.

It did, but his company changed its name and became a medical firm. He was named director-general of one of his customers, the Abu Dhabi-based Zayed Institute for Research & Technology, led by the emirate's crown prince. Later he represented the Kuwaiti royal family's holding in Savoy Asset Management, sitting on the board with Kenneth Clarke until he tried to remove the former chancellor in a voting putsch.

Allesch-Taylor's portfolio includes chairing the Global Evolution hedge funds but his day job is running Fairfax, the financial boutique he founded two years ago and which has offices in New York and Dubai as well as Berkeley Square. "The word 'boutique' upsets me. I think of people who sell underwear," he says.

"But Fairfax isn't advising Sir Peter and Sir George. I'm advising them." He adds: "Our view is that there should not be a takeover, but it [HBOS] should be run by us."

So will there be a role at HBOS for Allesch-Taylor? "No," he says. "I'm an adviser here, not a principal ... I'm the forward guard for a much bigger machine."

He also has a soft side. He and his wife, Beaky, who have a daughter, sent £33,000 to a girl with leukaemia to ensure her father could leave his job in Iraq to be with her. Not bad for a man who used to keep piranhas in his office.