Disgraced bankers face long wait to get back on track

London, October 18:

With recession looming, and unemployment rising rapidly, it is not a good time to be job hunting — especially if you are the former boss of a bank that needs a government bail-out.

There are now four such executives on the market:

Lord Stevenson and Andy Hornby, the chairman and chief executive respectively of HBOS, and Sir Tom McKillop and Sir Fred Goodwin, their counterparts at RBS.

However, prospects are not good. The likelihood of them landing another high-powered job in one of the UK’s biggest organisations is slim, shareholders said yesterday.

The fact is that the bosses who make the biggest mistakes have the least chance of

a comeback — and if they ever do, the stigma is likely to follow them.

One leading City (London’s financial district) shareholder described the chances of any of the four securing another top UK job is “almost nil”.

He added: “Hornby might get a non-executive role eventually, mainly because of his youth and his experience in other sectors, but not the others. They have cost investors too much.” He suggested they lie low, “do some charity work” and “not try to blame others for what went wrong”.

A City headhunter, who places executives in part-time, non-executive director positions, said he would not be willing to suggest any of the four to a big company “for a very long time”. The alternative for fired executives in recent years, he said, was to move into the world of private equity, but the credit crunch has meant business there has dried up and highly paid consultancy roles have disappeared.

The four don’t even have the usual cushion of a whopping pay-off to help them over the coming months; they waived all payments before they were forced to.

Previous bank bosses shown the door have never made it back into the big league of corporate life.

Sir Derek Wanless was a big name in British banking.

When he got the top job at NatWest he was one of the first forty-something bank chiefs, but he was bundled out after a failed takeover bid.

Wanless was never going to get another such role, but he worked his way back by heading the government’s review into the public health service. He also made the most of his Geordie roots, getting the chairman’s job at Northumbrian Water and another directorship which has done nothing to help his rehabilitation: Northern Rock, where he monitored — or failed to monitor — the lender’s risk.

Ian Harley, who was ousted from Abbey National when shareholders tired of waiting for better results, has since picked up just a couple of boardroom seats — at British Energy and the employment agency Remploy. His commercial talents are also put to work on two charities and a pension fund.