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Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain [Paperback]

Ray Perman
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Aug 2013
In 1995 Bank of Scotland celebrated 300 years as Britain's oldest commercial bank. Voted 'most admired bank', respected by competitors, applauded by investors and trusted by customers, it looked forward to the next three hundred. Less than 15 years later it was bust, reviled as part of the spectacular collapse of HBOS, the conglomerate it had joined. One of the high-profile victims of the credit crunch, its spectacular fall caused seismic shock waves throughout the financial world. What went wrong? Ray Perman, who has followed the Bank since the 1970s when he was a Financial Times journalist, uncovered the story from documents and dozens of interviews with people at the top in Bank of Scotland and HBOS - from being the bank of choice for the highrolling Monte Carlo mega-rich to losing GBP10 billion. It is a cautionary tale for our times. In the complex world of modern global finance, the brilliant men who ran the company ignored the simple banking rules that their predecessors learned the hard way three centuries before.

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Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain + Making it Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the Men Who Blew Up the British Economy + Shredded: Inside RBS, the Bank That Broke Britain
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd; Reprint edition (1 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780271328
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780271323
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 17,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ray Perman was a journalist in London and Edinburgh for thirty years for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Times and The Scotsman. He was a co-founder of the business magazine company Insider Publications and was Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise from 1999 to 2003. In 2011 he was appointed Chairman of The James Hutton Institute, one of the largest institutes of its type in Europe dedicated to making new contributions to the understanding of key global issues such as food, energy and environmental security. Ray Perman is the author of HUBRIS: How HBOS wrecked the Best Bank in Britain (2012) and The Man Who Gave Away His Island: A Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna (2010).

Product Description

Review

'We are indebted to Ray Perman for giving us a powerful lesson on what happens when you usurp the wisdom of a banking culture acquired over centuries for the pursuit of market share and profit at all and any cost' --The Scotsman

'...as a document of the long and short-term causes of one of British banking's lowest moments, Perman's book more than delivers. Its balanced treatment of the major players involved should be required reading for anyone wondering where to position the likes of Hornby in the credit crunch Hall of Shame,' --Breaking Views

'[An] admirably lucid account' --Independent on Sunday

About the Author

Ray Perman was a journalist in London and Edinburgh for thirty years. He was a co-founder of the business magazine Insider Publications and was Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise from 1999 to 2003. In 2011 he was appointed Chairman of The James Hutton Institute, the first institute of its type in Europe dedicated to making new contributions to the understanding of key global issues such as food, energy and environmental security.


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lesson Learned? Sadly not. 13 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback
I don't normally read this sort of book, but as an ex-HBOS employee of ten years, including the period of near-bankruptcy in late 2008, I was interested to know exactly how the collapse was brought about. I worked in one of the call centres dealing only with personal customers, light-years from the world of nine- and ten-figure corporate finance deals, but many of the root causes of the destruction of HBOS were visible even from my insignificant position within the company hierarchy. None of these issues are particular to HBOS, either. They are symptoms of the degradation of the banking industry over the last few decades. Genuine customer knowledge and understanding has been replaced by box-ticking; a sensibly conservative attitude to lending has been replaced by a culture of hucksterism where quantity of sales is the sole measure of success, quality being little more than an afterthought; and long-term stability has been sacrificed on the altar of short-term profits and the annual bonus payment. I left the company [now part of Lloyds Banking Group] in February of this year (2013), and I'd like to say it appeared that the company had learned its lesson, but sadly I cannot. If anything, the period after integration into Lloyds was characterised by an even stronger focus on sales, as if the company believes it can claw back the billions it lost to the toxic debts of HBOS by employing the same sales strategy that allowed those poisonous loans to be made in the first place. I fear that another serious banking crash may not be very far away.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BANKING GOOD PRACTICE KIDNAPPED BY THE 'HALIBAN' 31 Dec 2012
By DOPPLEGANGER TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Experienced financial journalist Ray Pearman's well researched, informative, interesting and erudite account of the supposed 'merger' of The Halifax Building Society and The Bank of Scotland, gives a succinct summary of the history of both companies, a detailed account of the getting together, and the disasterous but wholly avoidable stampede into bankruptcy, followed by a very thoughtful analysis of what went wrong and how the most basic of well established elementary banking and commercial principles would have avoided the collapse which cost the taxpayers dearly.

Immediately the 'merger' was consumated the direction and running of HBOS was dominated by the men from Yorkshire, who were compared to the religious fanatics of Afganistan - 'The Haliban', and led by Andy Hornby, a marketing whizz-kid from the supermarket chain Asda, who swamped the combined company with a 'tsunami' of a vastly increased portfolio of riskier mortgages, big ticket business loans , and poorly adjudged commercial property lending, financed in the large part by securitizations, and short term borrowings. Even at the start of 2008 when the property market was imploding worldwide, HBOS buried it's head in tha sand and publicly announced "Some people look as though they are losing their nerve - beginning to panic even - in today's testing property environment. Not us". It was soon seen as a highly reckless and irresponsible delusory statement but was indicative of the almost total lack of understanding of the gravity of the situation the bank had manoeuvred itself into. Despite falling profits and horrendously massive bad debts looming ahead pay and bonuses for the top executives escalated upwards.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Friend or enemy? 22 Nov 2012
Format:Hardcover
In Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked The Best Bank in Britain, Ray Perman reveals that, in 2006, certain members of the HBOS board had serious concerns about the bank's behaviour in the UK mortgage market and that they failed to intervene. A plan to launch 125% loan-to-value residential mortgages in November 2006 was, Perman writes, greeted with 'mute astonishment' by some board members'. What he does not reveal was who was mute and why they bit their tongues. Given that their role is supposed to be to look after the interests of shareholders, surely these individuals ought to be named and shamed?

Maybe part of the problem was that, as Perman reveals on page 96 of the book, that the executive directors appointed their own non-executives - the exact opposite of what is meant to happen in a PLC.

Perman makes clear that until some 25 years ago Bank of Scotland was actually trusted by its customers. When it adopted its 'A Friend for life' slogan in 1984, Perman claims, 'it was not greeted with cynicism. People believed it meant it, and more importantly, it did.' However by the 1990s the leadership of the Bank of Scotland and other UK banks had no qualms about sacrificing this trust on the altar of greed. Not only did they start prioritising sales over service (and, latterly, financial stability); they also started playing fast and loose with their own balance sheets in pursuit of targets that were often quixotic and ephemeral.

Perman recounts how things deteriorated further following Bank of Scotland's ill-considered merger with Halifax in September 2001.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great insight into the fall of a once respected institution.
Published 1 month ago by MICHAEL J BONHAM
5.0 out of 5 stars Need to understand
There have been three very informative books on the demise of RBS and HBOS, all of which merit close reading. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robin Archibald
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, easy to read, informative.
A detailed account of the rise and fall of HBOS, with the courage to lay the blame squarely on individuals who really should have known better (and still seem to think they were... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christopher Haywood
5.0 out of 5 stars The unvarnished facts
I found this a most accessible account of a complex subject-readable and clear.
Towards the close, the authors do become judgmental, but this is not a polemic-it describes... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Mr. John W. Dutton
3.0 out of 5 stars HBOS and Northern Rock the Del Boys of banking
It was a bit heavier than I expected but I soon learned that it needed to be. The gross incompetence and arrogance fuelled by greed propelled the bank(HBOS) towards an inevitable... Read more
Published 5 months ago by john boyle
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting but very upsetting
Historically and factually informative, gives an insight into how people in privileged positions of power can abuse their power for self gain, and be incompetent to such a level... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Gerald M Flinn
4.0 out of 5 stars Banking failure
An excellent review of the banking failure well written and informative well ahead of the official, as yet still unpublished, report on the matter
Published 6 months ago by William MacRae
4.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the real reasons for our recession
Compelling reading and understanding of the real reason for our recession, as with RBS the bank executives involved should have been sent to prison!
Published 6 months ago by John M Clark
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative, well written
This is an informative and well written account. The author, a journalist, knows his stuff, particularly the BoS angle and has a adequate knowledge of HBOS post merger. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Tony McDonnell
4.0 out of 5 stars Pigies at the trough
Excellent book about financial greed and gluttony. No one had the guts to speak up even if they knew things were going wrong. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Michelle
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