Another success for Sir Steve Robson

I have been meaning to write a substantial piece linking the banking collapse with rail privatisation for some time and will certainly do so in the next couple of weeks. But meanwhile, enjoy this titbit: that ever so very clever fool, Sir Steve Robson, who at the Treasury designed the structure for both rail privatisation and the Public Private Partnership on the Underground, can now count the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland on his CV.
Robson has been on the board of RBS as a non executive director since leaving the Treasury in the early 2000s and clearly sat on his hands while the chief executive, Fred Goodwin, happily embarked on what the commentators are now calling ‘a deal too far’. The interesting point, on which I will elaborate in a future column in Rail is that there are very many similarities to the process of breaking up the rail industry and the elaborate deals which led to disaster in banking. The same themes emerge: complexity, lack of transparency, attempts to transfer risk, the use of intricate and incomprehensible financial instruments and above all a total absence of accountability. Well, actually, the non-execs are supposed to protect the shareholders’ interest, so congrats Sir Steve.
Incidentally, I bank with RBS and the other day the branch rang me saying there was a problem with a direct debit. I rang back, only to find it was a subterfuge, as they said it was my mortgage and did I want a better deal? Clearly desperate times for banks…

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