The Business On... Lord Levene, Chairman, Lloyds of London

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The Independent Online

In the news again?

Afraid so. Lord Levene of Portsoken is a busy man. As if being chairman of Lloyd's of London wasn't enough, he's also the leading figure behind MBNK, arguably the most credible of the "new force in banking" brigade, and is adding the chairmanship of the Defence Reform Unit to his portfolio for one day a month.

So another businessman telling the Government howto do things?

Yes, but to be fair, Lord Levene is rather more personable (and polished) than Sir Philip Green, the Arcadia owner who's recently been attacking all that government waste. He's not the sort of person one would expect to vent a volley of four-letter words when people make him cross, nor square up to a rival businessman in the street as Sir Philip did with Stuart Rose over M&S.

But does he actually know anything about defence?

Well, yes. Lord Levene might be best known for his work at Lloyd's, and at Deutsche Bank, but he started his business career with United Scientific in 1963, rising to become managing director between 1968 and 1985. Lord Levene built USH, which sold army surplus, from a 20-man firm to quoted company. It eventually bought the Alvis tank business, making the business an MoD supplier.

Oh, so he's up on defence, then

He's also up on the workings on government. He was an adviser to Michael Heseltine in 1984 and then worked on procurement, introducing a series of reforms which were adopted by the last Tory administration. Lord Levene has saidhe managed to get value for money, although critics would debate that point.

And now?

It's back into the hornets' nest, although having worked at Lloyd's and at Deutsche Bank, he'll know a thing or two about that. He's only working a day a week though. The trouble with defence is that it's quite literally a minefield of vested interests, one that governments have found very difficult to navigate through. Lord Levene may need a tin hat and flak jacket before too long.