Mervyn Davies Profile: A man trusted by City and the PM

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The Independent Online

Mervyn Davies was unknown in Britain when he returned from Hong Kong at the end of 2001 to take charge of Standard Chartered, a bank that was itself a mystery to most people in Britain. But within a few years, he had become one of Gordon Brown's closest advisers on business matters and a force to be reckoned with in the City.

His elevation to the House of Lords as minister for trade promotion and investment should not come as a great surprise. The Welshman has many years of banking experience, a priceless international contacts book, and a record of supporting government initiatives. As well as chairing the Prime Minister's business advisory committee, he sits on a task force, chaired by the Chancellor, to promote Anglo-Sino relations, and chairs the the Government's International Centre for Financial Regulation that opened this week. He has also weighed in with government-friendly public comments attacking excessive short-term pay for bankers and calling for an end to City excess.

"We need to make sure that compensation doesn't lose touch with the rest of society," he said last month. "When you hear people were getting tens of millions for short-term bonus awards, it seems to be out of touch with the returns and the risk."

Mr Davies's turnaround of Standard Chartered made his name. After joining from Citigroup as an executive director in 1997, he worked in Hong Kong, running the bank's operation in its biggest market, and had not worked at the bank's London headquarters before becoming chief executive after a boardroom bust-up ousted Rana Talwar.

The bank's then-chairman, Sir Patrick Gillam, believed Mr Davies's energy and drive were needed to shake up Standard Chartered, the "banana-skin" bank whose emerging markets businesses promised so much but always seemed to come a cropper. Mr Davies set out his stall in his first address to London staff, telling them they would have to buck up their ideas to survive under his regime. He set about stripping out dead wood and bringing in fresh talent from outside the world of banking, sacrificing his finance director and bringing in Peter Sands, a high-flying McKinsey consultant who replaced Mr Davies as chief executive two years ago.

Under Mr Davies and his team, Standard Chartered became one of the most respected banks in the City as it expanded rapidly in Asia, Africa and the Middle East without suffering the periodic accidents that had seen it overshadowed by its bigger rival HSBC.

With its focus on emerging markets, it has come through the credit crunch relatively unscathed by toxic assets. In recent years, the bank has made major acquisitions in Korea, Pakistan and Taiwan.

Mr Davies built up his outside interests by joining the boards of Tesco and Tottenham Hotspur.

The fluent Welsh speaker became close to the Labour Government, helped by his close friendship with Roland Rudd, the boss of City PR firm Finsbury.

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