The business on...Sir John Vickers, Chairman, Banking Commission
Saturday 25 September 2010
Ah, the establishment man come to save the bankers
Maybe. On the face of it, Sir John's cv – stints in academia and regulation – does not scream status-quo wrecker. But you might be surprised: Sir John is proud of his independence and will resist attempts to force him in a particular direction. And it's a year before he's due to report back, so anything could happen.
Well, in a five-year stint running the Office of Fair Trading, Sir John wasn't afraid to rock the boat, taking on vested interests. And earlier this year he made a different sort of splash. As warden of All Souls College at Oxford University, it was Sir John who decided to get rid of the notorious entrance exam in which would-be students were asked to write an essay about a random word. The exam had been used for a century before Sir John killed it off.
What a rebel. So how did he make his name?
Initially in academia. After a PPE degree at Oxford's Oriel college, Sir John had a brief stint as a graduate trainee at Shell before returning to the university, where he would eventually become professor of economics. Then, in 1998, he made the jump into public life. Mervyn King hired him to be chief economist at the Bank of England, and he was poached for the director-generalship of the OFT two years later.
Are there any conflicts of interest to worry about?
If so, they'll be sorted out. Sir John once refused to get involved in an investigation into private school fees that the OFT was running because he was concerned about being an interested party. He has six children, you see, all of whom were in private school at the time.
Goodness, no wonder he needs to keep working. But aren't the salaries for these public sector jobs being cut back now?
Don't worry. Sir John's wife, Maureen, used to be a partner at the management consultancy McKinsey, and his various roles have all been generously remunerated. No doubt they'll scrape by.
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