James Ashton: Something's got to give for Sir John

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The Independent Online

Outlook It is tempting to believe that everything is done and dusted at Standard Chartered.

The bank was caught short by New York's Department of Financial Services (DFS), bit back publicly and then quickly negotiated a $340m (£216.5m) fine to settle allegations that it had breached US regulations on banking transactions with Iran.

Yet suggesting that the lightest of boardroom reshuffles is enough of a lesson for Standard Chartered to learn from this episode is dangerous.

Not only has the bank to settle with four further US regulators who have been probing its affairs, but activities in Myanmar, Libya and Sudan are also under scrutiny.

It is not that the bank's board has been found to have done anything glaringly wrong. But this episode is a good opportunity to spotlight the role of Sir John Peace, Standard Chartered's chairman.

Sir John is a busy man. He chairs three FTSE 100 companies: Standard Chartered, fashion house Burberry and credit-checking firm Experian. Some chairman struggle to cope with one role of such distinction. Sir John has amply coped with a trio of them.

The latter two are siblings from his successful stewardship of Great Universal Stores which was split into three parts (the third being Argos owner Home Retail Group), creating great value for shareholders.

You can forgive Sir John for being emotionally attached to Experian. He effectively founded the business within GUS which he joined as a youngster in 1970. Efforts to find his replacement there came to nothing, even though he reluctantly vowed to step down when he was appointed to chair Standard Chartered in 2009.

I'm not suggesting that he isn't one of Britain's leading businessmen. It would also be unwise to fall into the same trap as Barclays, where a string of can-carrying resignations left a hole at the top of the bank. But after this incident at Standard Chartered, it feels right that something's got to give.