Anthony Hilton: A tale of two City reputations

The most interesting contrast this week has been the extent to which two reputations have been repaired, or not.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton

Johnny Cameron used to run the investment banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland. Though it was relatively low profile because it was not active in the equity markets, this division was a principal engine of the bank's growth. It was particularly recognised as being one of the best at using the strength of the high street bank to add clout to its investment banking activities. Unfortunately the growth came with risks and it was where many of the troubles broke to the surface when the credit markets turned. Cameron changed overnight from saint to sinner and was one of those forced to resign when the Government took over the bank.

Andy Hornby was the chief executive of Halifax Bank of Scotland. When he was first appointed, the move was hailed by many as a masterstroke because his background was in retail. He had been recruited from Asda and while he knew little about banking, he knew a lot about marketing. He was the person to bring customer understanding and focus to the heart of the operation. Unfortunately the bank grew, not wisely but too well. In trying to rescue it, Lloyds so weakened itself that it too had to fall back on state aid. Hornby, who was blamed by many for sinking what many had considered an unsinkable ship, left after a brief handover period.

The interesting contrast is in their fortunes since. Cameron has tried to get various other jobs in finance but has on several occasions been blocked by the Financial Services Authority. This week he was in the news for accepting the regulator's decision, which makes it unlikely that he will ever return in a senior position in any financial organisation.

Hornby was also in the news this week but in quite different circumstances. He turned his back on finance and went back to his roots by taking on the chief executive's job at Boots. This week the group announced an impressive surge in profits and Hornby was very much the hero. His time at HBOS is not forgotten, but it is now put in a much more flattering context.

- Anthony Hilton is City commentator on London's Evening Standard.

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