James Moore: Chairman of the challenger bank needs to be challenged


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The Independent Online

Outlook One of the challenger banks that will provide some of the glut of banking shares coming to market is Shawbrook, which has announced its intention to float along with its chairman’s plans to retire when the job is done. It’s the second part of the story that should make you angry. I’ve written before about the pot of gold that Sir George Mathewson will make from the float, but it bears repeating because it encapsulates much that is still badly wrong with the banking industry and with the City.

Governance wonks get cross when chief executives step up to become chairmen, and Sir George provides an example of why. Before becoming chairman of RBS, he oversaw the acquisition of NatWest, and then handed the role of chief executive, and the job of integrating the bank, to his deputy – Fred Goodwin. If you were one of the unfortunates locked out of their accounts, you’ll know only too well how Mr Goodwin botched it. 

Undaunted, Sir George then popped up as chairman of Tosca Fund, which played an important role in delivering ABN Amro to RBS – a deal that broke the bank he built. 

Next up was the chairmanship of Shawbrook, a challenger bank set up and funded by, yes, RBS – which Sir George bought into at ground level and from which he will now make a fortune.

As legacies go, it’s really rather shameful. Mr Goodwin had to give up his knighthood. But Sir George has kept his. Now would seem a good time to ask why.