Anthony Hilton: Bank of England leads by example

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has been hailed as the first winner under the new Government, after Chancellor George Osborne confirmed it was going to break up the Financial Services Authority, spin off its customer-facing work and reform the rest as a division of the Bank.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton
King emerges from this with more power and authority than anyone in his position has held probably since the legendary Montagu Norman in the 1930s.

To many the elevation is the more remarkable because King and the Bank picked up more than their share of flak for the fumbling rescue of Northern Rock.

This transformation in perception from sinner to saint did not just happen.

Under comms director Jenny Scott, hired by King a couple of years ago from the BBC, the Bank of England has developed the most sophisticated public relations machine in the City.

The Bank used to take pride in doing good by stealth, in keeping its thoughts and concerns secret. Today the senior team from King downwards is hugely accessible and remarkably candid on a background basis.

As a result, the understanding among the key financial commentators of what the Bank is trying to achieve has been transformed. And when things go wrong the Bank gets much more of the benefit of the doubt, because people understand the wider picture.

There are many strands, but key is King¹s personal commitment in time and content. This has been followed and developed by key members of his team ­ Paul Tucker, Andy Haldane, Charlie Bean and the rest. Time was when you needed to have the skills of a Kremlinologist code breaker to understand the significance of Bank of England speeches. Now the message is clear, hard-hitting, intellectually rigorous and to the point. Not by accident, the Bank has become a most authoritative think-tank.

Could other organisations learn from this? Yes. But only if they are prepared to grasp the essence of the Bank's success. It works because the people at the top are consistently willing to say things that are worth listening to. That sets the bar too high for many.

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

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