The gestalt underlying the terrible financial recession that rocked both sides of the Atlantic in the year 2008 was unrivaled greed. A petulant greed that sacrificed prudence at the Altar of Mammon. A greed that brought many a prospering economy to its hubris. No case epitomised this greed better than the ugly fall of an iconic financial institution, The Royal Bank of Scotland or RBS. The very bedrock of the Scottish financial empire, RBS under its abrasive and flamboyant head Fred Goodwin rose to dizzying heights boasting a trillion pound balance sheet before ignominiously collapsing under the weight of esoteric financial instruments such as Collaterised Debt Obligations (“CDOs”).
In this compelling narrative, Iain Martin scripts the path to perfidy traversed by this once venerated banking house established in the year 1727 following the ill fated Darien Scheme conceptualised by the Dumfriesshire-born trader William Paterson. A Bank that enjoyed the patronage of its idolising customers transformed from a benign enterprise into a mammoth giant courtesy the ambitious Fred Goodwin. A slew of ill timed acquisitions including the much vaunted ABN Amro takeover (along with a basket full of toxic assets) reduced the Bank from being the pride of Scotland to a pariah denounced across the globe. An impotent board, an acquiescing band of wealth accumulating cronies and a laconic regulator all played their emphatic part in triggering what has come to be known as the most famous banking collapse and bail out in the history of British banking.
Iain Martin, in an irascible style that pulls all punches and takes no prisoners details the thoughts, actions and consequences of Fred Goodwin and his comrades that disregarded with utter disdain the future of small and innocuous shareholders while a the same time embellishing their already swelling kitty of bonuses, compensation and stock options. Although Fred Goodwin’s Knighthood was consequently rescinded, the damage that was done by the actions (or the lack of it) of the Board at RBS continues to haunt the beleaguered British economy till date.
This is a book for every aspiring professional, investment banker and accountant that has to be read and re-read.
“Making It Happen” – A sorry instance which never ought to occur again!