2013 - the business year in review: Happy days may be on their way

The scandals continued, but the main message the City took home from 2013 was that the good times are back

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The Independent Online

It was a fine year for financiers. After a half-decade of misery, the FTSE 100 index gained 11 per cent and the Dow Jones managed double that gain. US shares consistently hit new records but UK ones peaked in May and then stuttered on: thanks in no small part to the largesse of the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve’s money-printing.

It was a good year, too, for women in the City, with the FTSE seeing a 33 per cent jump in the number of female bosses at top companies. The growing army includes Royal Mail’s Moya Green, Carolyn McCall at easyJet and Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco. Angela Ahrendts announced she was leaving Burberry to head home to America next year but Liv Garfield will be joining as boss of Severn Trent. And of course, it’s less than a fortnight since Inga Beale was confirmed as CEO of the Lloyd’s of London insurance market.

Lord King took a woman off the banknotes but another man put a woman back. Jane Austen will grace the £10 note, bettering Elizabeth Fry’s old position on the fiver. That’s inflation for you.King’s PR-savvy replacement was the Canadian Mark Carney, who arrived by Tube on his first day as Governor of the Bank of England. He then rocked up at the Wilderness music festival in polo shirt, shorts and loafers. Plastic banknotes  should come in by 2016.

The more he talked of recovery, the more austere Chancellor George Osborne’s hairstyle became. The rumour was that the comb-forward was to hide a bald spot.

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby laid into payday lenders, only to be told the Church was an investor in the biggest – Wonga. He admitted being “very embarrassed” but continued his crusade against big bad business, meeting the big six energy bosses, most of whom had avoided a grilling by MPs.

Speaking of the guys in the black hats, banks were never out of the headlines. But the ones leading to the arrest of former Co-op Bank chairman Paul Flowers over drug allegations were extraordinary. The week before he had told the Treasury Select Committee the bank had assets of £3bn when it actually had £47bn.

Fox-hunting Stephen Hester fell out with the Chancellor and quit as chief executive of 81% state-owned Royal Bank of Scotland. It was fined £325m for rigging Libor and £62m for sanctions breaches. Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Standard Chartered all picked up hefty fines.

Business secretary Vince Cable defended accusations he sold Royal Mail too cheaply. The shares were sold off at 330p in October and surged to almost 600p today.

On the high street, Blockbuster (twice), Barratts shoe shops, Jessops and HMV all went under.

Cricket-playing Simon Lee quit as chief executive of insurer RSA after it found a £200m hole in its Irish arm’s reserves. Nick Buckles escaped from security giant G4S following its shambolic performance at the London Olympics.

On the whole, though, as they say in the City, there were more risers than fallers.