Sir Peter's controversial episodes in banking

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The Independent Online

It is almost four years ago to the day that Sir Peter Burt suffered the most crushing defeat of his career. After one of the City's bloodiest, and closest fought battles, Bank of Scotland's arch rival, Royal Bank of Scotland, finally triumphed to win the battle to control NatWest.

While that deal has transformed RBS into one of the world's major banking power houses, the reward for Sir Peter, widely praised in the City for the plucky bid that brought NatWest into play, was to cast around to find the best alternative for Bank of Scotland. Just over a year later, he sold it to Halifax and, after 26 years at the bank, sacrificed the top job to James Crosby, its pugnacious Yorkshire-born chief executive.

While the episode was deeply crushing for Sir Peter, some of his native Scotsmen would regard his proposed telephone banking venture with Pat Robertson, the American TV evangelist, as far more embarrassing. The deal had to be swiftly unravelled after Mr Robertson provoked a storm of outrage in Scotland, which he described as a "dark land" where "you can't believe how strong the homosexuals are".

According to some who have worked with him, Sir Peter is one of the more unusual bankers of his generation, managing to break the grey-suited mould by being capable of holding conversations about his passions, politics and the arts.

Sir Peter also loves to play golf, a pastime he would have been able to improve on when he was at the University of St Andrews. He now plays off a three handicap. The sport, Sir Peter once remarked, "teaches you so much". "You learn that life's not fair and you shouldn't expect it to be. You learn that luck runs in streaks, but in the end the good and bad breaks normally even themselves out."

As Sir Peter approaches his sixtieth birthday in two weeks, he might reflect that the break has been in his favour this time.