Monday, 19 January 2009
I had an account opened for me at the Royal Bank of Scotland in Union Street, Aberdeen when I left prep school for my public school. No longer would I clutch the few ten bob notes collected from relatives and godparents in my grubby hand and take them to the housemaster on day one of a new term; I had a chequebook (no need for a bank card) and by golly I was pleased with myself.
My bank manager was the same man who had looked after both parents for many years. He was a gentleman Aberdonian of the old school called Bill Munnoch and he wore a kilt every working day, I understood. He looked upon me and my brother with an avuncular kindliness that owed everything to his relationship with my parents, which was one of mutual respect and trust. Whether he articulated it, or whether it simply went without saying, there was no chance of him bouncing a cheque of mine, just as the idea that I would (deliberately) write cheques beyond my limit was unthinkable.
Bill Munnoch retired, known and respected by all Aberdeen, it seemed, and doubtless spent his retirement shooting wildfowl and playing golf at Banchory. My father muttered that things would never be the same again, which, given his mortage, crumbling house, unproductive farm, school fees and limited naval income, meant that he had not yet achieved the same level of support from Munnoch's replacement, who was a trousered chap without his predecessor's charm.
The Royal Bank, it seemed to me, was as solid as Grampian rock, and about as flashy. For the next twenty years, I took it for granted that its success was the result of centuries of caledonian sagacity. Only about ten years ago did it occur to me that a new breed of pushy Edinburgh professionals had usurped the auld grey men and had bet the farm, ten times over.
Well, we know the rest. Today's news and the disemboweling of the share price leaves one very short step to complete nationalisation, and the total loss of a reputation for financial acumen and conservative stewardship that had been built since 1727.
The misery will be felt by millions - many times more outside Scotland than within. And the blame can be fairly pinned to the board in general and Fred 'the shred' Goodwin in particular. He and they have been guilty of a degree of gross negligence and malpractice for which retrospective confiscation of assets seems to be the only adequate punishment. A greed for personal enrichment drove these bastards to do what they did and its loss is what they will most keenly regret.
création d' idle at 6:43 pm