So who wants to be the new governor?
It's a big job with rewards to match, says Julian Knight, as he looks at candidates in the running for the top role at the Bank of England
Friday 05 October 2012
At least 300 grand a year, a gold-plated public pension, your own car and driver, and an office right in the heart of the City of London. Not bad, eh? Fancy applying? Well, if you want to be the new Governor of the Bank of England, you have 72 hours to get in your application to the Treasury, as the shutters fall at 8.30am on Monday.
But if you do slip your CV to the Treasury, rest assured that the biggest job in British banking has just got even bigger. With the sweeping away of the failed "tripartite" regulation of banks, from 2013 the bank will have sole oversight of the banking sector, charged with avoiding another Northern Rock.
"The new Governor of the Bank of England will have much greater responsibility than any predecessor, or any other central banker in the world; be at the head of the new regulatory structure of the world's financial centre and play a key role in setting interest rates and monitoring the risk in our economy," Anthony Browne, chief executive, British Bankers' Association said.
Problems in the banking sector will end up at the door of the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street.
"During the financial crisis the Financial Services Authority copped most of the criticism. If there is any repeat it will be the Bank and its Governor in the firing line – the job will be a very public one, the new Governor is going to have to be the ultimate delegator," Phil Shaw, the chief UK economist at Investec, said.
Such is the task at hand that Hector Sants, the outgoing chief executive of the Financial Services Authority, doubts that a single person is up to the role. In an interview, he said: "The operational task given to the Governor, as an individual, is just too great. I think the risk is that operationally this is going to be too difficult for just one person to manage."
It seems the Governor will have to earn every penny of the bumper salary and the field of potential candidates is narrowing all the time. So who is up to the task? Here are the runners and riders.
Paul Tucker: The insider
Currently the bookies' favourite to land the role, the current deputy governor is the ultimate insider. The Cambridge-educated Mr Tucker has been at the Bank since 1980. He rose to take a seat on the rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee in 2002. He has seen the Bank go through the twin traumas of Black Wednesday and the more recent financial crisis, and until lately was not seen to have missed a step. But then came the Libor rate-fixing scandal when Mr Tucker was accused of acting as a cheerleader to Barclays' manipulation of the key borrowing rate to the potential cost of millions of British savers and borrowers.
Adair Turner: The watchdog
Lord Turner has divided opinions during his time at the Financial Services Authority. Some see him as having steered what looked like a holed ship through some very choppy waters. Others are less impressed, suggesting he falls short on the details – not a good trait in a central banker. But as a former head of the CBI business lobby and the painstaking pensions commission – ultimately auto-pension enrolment was his lordship's baby – he does have a wide-ranging résumé. He can have a sticky relationship with his political masters, though, and is prone to the odd outspoken outburst, such as calling for the end of free bank accounts.
Jim O'Neill: The City banker
The 55-year-old chairman of the supposed "great vampire squid" that is Goldman Sachs is credited with coining the phrase Brics – which stands for Brazil, Russia, India and China – and blazing a trail in emerging market investment. Mr O'Neill has been in banking since the early 1980s, joining Goldman Sachs asset management in 1997. He's a big thinker on the global economy and markets, and his speeches and public Q&As are a big draw. But it's hard to say where he stands on such crucial, hot political topics as the pace of deficit reform and whether the Chancellor needs a plan A plus. Mr O'Neill does have what the former Labour chancellor Denis Healey called a "hinterland". As a life-long Manchester United fan, he is believed to have been interested in a takeover of the club through the Red Knights. But the occupants of No 10 and 11 Downing Street may be scared off by his prominent position at controversial Goldman.
Sir John Vickers: The dark horse
The former chief economist at the Bank of England during the early Blair years, when all was rosy in the economic garden, is many people's dark horse for the top job. He has probably the most rounded CV of any candidate, having worked in the oil industry, academia at Oxford University, Princeton and Harvard, a former president of the Institute of Fiscal Studies – the country's top economics think-tank – and heading up the Independent Commission on Banking. The ICB recommended ring-fencing of the retail and investment arms of the banks, encouraging new entrants into high street banking through the sale of Lloyds branches and ensuring banks have more liquidity in case of crisis. Although welcomed by the Chancellor publically, the ring-fencing has infuriated the banks and won't happen until 2019. The question is, has the Vickers brand been too tainted in the City and Whitehall for him to get the job?
Gus O'Donnell: The public servant
The former Cabinet Secretary is often portrayed as the archetypal Sir Humphrey character, but according to those who have worked with him nothing could be further from the truth. He has an economics background, reading it at Oxford. Later he was Britain's man at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. He is noted for his informal management style – which may be a blessed relief at the Bank of England – more in the style of an American chief executive than a central banker. He is trusted by the likes of the Chancellor, George Osborne, though, as his Cabinet Manual completed in November 2010 outlined the rules applying to senior members of the Government. Choosing Lord O'Donnell would not be left field.
Mark Carney: The outsider
Canada's 47-year-old central banker Mark Carney's name appeared just when some commentators were suggesting that the Bank job was likely to be a two-horse race between Messrs Tucker and Turner. Nevertheless, on paper, Mr Carney is a very strong candidate – if he wishes to apply. He has crucially done the job in Canada, a country which has seen its way through it's own period of austerity to become a star performer among the G7. In fact Canada was the first country in the G7 to return to pre-financial crisis levels of growth and employment. He even earned the Reader's Digest award for most trusted Canadian. But will the ex-Goldman Sachs economist really want to uproot himself and his family and deal with Britain's considerable economic woes? And would it be a good idea to have a foreigner in such a key post under intense media scrutiny? Remember Fabio Capello!
Five key challenges
Getting the economy moving
Although most expect a return to growth in the third quarter, the prospects for 2013 still look dicey. It will be the Governor's job as "first among equals" on the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee to decide if interest rates should fall further from their current 0.5 per cent and whether we need more quantitative easing.
Handling the politicians
The chemistry between previous chancellors and governors has been mixed, from the clubby mateyness of Eddie George and Ken Clarke to the tetchiness between Gordon Brown and Sir Mervyn King.
Hitting the inflation target
The prime directive for the Bank when it was given its independence in 1997 was to keep inflation in a target range and to use monetary policy to do this. But with the financial crisis and the recession Sir Mervyn has had bigger fish to fry. "The new Governor will have to decide whether the old inflation targets are worth preserving with or should they be altered to take account of other factors such as growth," Phil Shaw at Investec said.
Overseeing the banks
The new Prudential Regulation Authority will report to the Governor. It will be charged with ensuring banks have enough money in reserve and do not indulge in high-risk lending and investments. The Bank is also trying to get more lending to business and individuals through its £80bn Funding for Lending scheme. And it's not just banks that are to be regulated, insurers are also on the watch list.
Ensuring the succession
It may seem odd for a newbie Governor to have to think of the succession, but with the retirement of deputy governor Charlie Bean also on the cards, there could be big gaps at the top of the Bank soon. The job comes up for renewal every five years, and with the position becoming so big it may be a good idea to have a successor in a deputy role by then.
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