Monday, 19 January 2009

So, Farewell Then


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.

Surcharge them.

10 comments:

Daisy said...

doesn't your government throw money to your banks when they are in trouble...sorry i know sarky comment...i'm a little bitter about the affairs over here...

rvi said...

Spot on, as usual.

I think a nice oak gibbet would enhance the ..er.. amenities in that beautiful garden. Pour encourager les autres, you understand..

William Gruff said...

We shall be in very serious trouble indeed when the state has complete control of every penny we own. It would be some small consolation to think that political control of the banks meant greatly reduced fees (how pleasing it would be to see charges wiped off following an outraged e-mail to one's MP and a letter to the local paper) but few can doubt that rapidly escalating charges will be the norm.

lilith said...

You can't even write to your branch and get a reply from them any more...let alone ring them up. Unrecognisable. My old Dad used to say "It's important to stay loyal to your bank as that will count when you need to borrow money" Ha Ha Ha Ha!

Nick Drew said...

RBS Prefs (the real ones, not the phoney ones the government has just swapped for worthless equity) have just halved in value.

Shows what the market thinks of a UK government guarantee !

Tuscan Tony said...

'Surcharge them'.

Agreed. And a similar remedy should be available against their opposite numbers in the public sector, too, as it is here in Italy. You would perhaps be surprised as to the level of probity displayed by local councillors here, now they are treated in the same way as comnpany directors and their own money is on the line.

Gordon Brown's pension should be on the line.

Nick Drew said...

probity in UK local authorities improved greatly the day that Council CFOs were given personal responsibility for seeing the books balanced

The Beast Of Clerkenwell said...

An "Avuncular" male prone to dressing in a skirt gave an overdraft to a teenage boy?
Are you by any chance a Roman Catholic?

Scrobs said...

"Gordon Brown's pension should be on the line."

Absolutely Tuscs, whatever that bastard does will be forgotten by him, when he starts getting his huge pension paid directly in to his account.

Whatever happened to accountability.

electro-kevin said...

What a great post.

I discovered around 18 years ago that the National Westminster Bank was not the trustworthy and disinterested guardian of my financial wellbeing when they ripped me off of my police pension ... thankfully only four years of contributions.

Alas, I was naive to have thought of my bank being run by dependable Captain Mainwaring types (I too was raised from childhood with my own account.)