When Standard Chartered's popular finance director Richard Meddings left early this year Peter Sands, the chief executive, made a fulsome, gracious, speech.
No one from the top of the bank was fooled, however. They knew that for months Sands and Meddings had been clashing and they had barely been on cordial terms.
These are febrile days at the top of what was once one of Britain’s most successful banks.
Today’s profit fall, accompanied by a plunging share price, may be explained away by Sands. The reality, however, is that the latest woe will hasten a move against him that was always likely in 2015.
Sir John Peace, the chairman, no longer has a cushion.
Shareholders, led by Temasek and Aberdeen Asset Management, are unlikely to give Sands any more time.
Sands’ opponents never have been able to abide his intellectualising; his preaching about the need for regulatory reform; the fact — did they not know it? — that he’d helped the Government to rescue the other banks.
Much of the hostility, to be fair, stemmed from Sands not being one of them; he hailed from McKinsey and was never a “roll up your sleeves”, “work your way to the top” banker.
They point to Standard Chartered’s wholesale business making huge plays that may not be recovered (like a $1 billion loan to Samin Tan, the Indonesian investor in mining company Bumi); its mishandling of the New York regulator, with the bank handed a $340 million fine out of proportion to the offence; the forced loss of thousands of small to medium-sized business customers in the UAE as part of that same money-laundering fallout; the bank’s exposure to China, and a rise in Chinese interest rates. Then there are questions about Sands’ management style.
When the shares were 1950p — as they were, let us not forget, in late 2010 — Sands could do no wrong. But now they are under 1000p, it’s no longer if but when he goes.Reuse content