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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Right Royal Bankers
A great deal has been written about the banking crisis of 2007-10, much of it of a similar dreadful quality to some of the assets on the RBS balance sheet in 2007. To my mind, two serious attempts have been made to document what led to the crash at RBS: the BBC documentary "Inside the Bank that Ran out of Money", and now Iain Martin's book.

Martin received...
Published 18 months ago by J Cross

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but doesn't really explain what happened
I did enjoy this book and it has been researched well in terms of the people. I think it does a good job of talking about some of the characters at RBS.

The book describes in great detail the investment bank, CDO's and acquisition of ABN Amro along with portraits of the people involved in these areas.

Then casually at the end of the book it is made...
Published 14 months ago by Andrew V


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4.0 out of 5 stars Clear expose of (some of) what went wrong, 9 April 2014
RBS has played a major role in Scotland's history, never more so than in the past 15 years as it rose from being a small (in global terms) bank based in Edinburgh, to being briefly among the largest banks in the world - before imploding.

Iain Martin has interviewed many of those involved in the debacle (though by no means all the key players) and, through those interviews has put together a readable and compelling account of how RBS fell. He avoids casting Fred Goodwin as sole villain, which is healthy, though Fred Goodwin's character is fully described and you can see why leadership by such an individual could bring about some issues. Pointing the finger in solely at Fred Goodwin would not help us to learn more important lessons. One of those is that banking is more than accounting and strategy. Risk - as the banking industry rediscovered in 2007/8 - has not gone away. Techniques for parking risk elsewhere don't always work. Economies still have cycles and loans do go bad. Another lesson you pick up from Iain Martin's book is the importance of genuine and informed independent challenge in the board room. As told by Iain Martin, this was utterly lacking at RBS.

In the end, however, you cannot help but think that there was also was an element of bad timing here. If RBS had not found itself with more of ABN-AMRO than it had bargained for (nice footwork by Santander there) at just the time liquidity dried up in the banking markets, might it have squeaked through to a time when Fred could have been moved aside and a banker put in charge? We'll never know; but I suspect the problem was deeper than that given how long it is taking to sort the bank out now under UK government ownership. I picked up less of that sense of deeper problems from this account.

I learned a bit about banking from this book; but not really all that much. This is not a book written by a banker and that is one of its strengths. This is generally rather big picture. It does probably mean, however, that the detailed lessons of what went wrong on a technical level need to be gleaned from another source. The next financial crisis (and there will be one) will be different, but it is still worth knowing enough about this one to avoid repeating it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Banking is difficult!, 19 May 2014
This review is from: Making it Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the Men Who Blew Up the British Economy (Paperback)
This is an excellent chronological review of the growth and collapse of RBS- except that chapter ONE deals with the actual collapse- presumably publisher's orders.

However, there are weaknesses: a much more technical explanation of the various marketing tools is needed- CDO's are not just "pool and slice", for instance; a comprehensive analysis of the operation of corporate governance within RBS would have been a great help; as would a more-detailed explanation of the mechanics of risk analysis and provisioning.

These additions would have helped us to understsnd more clearly what went wrong; particularly was it just idiotic and weak management or was it systemic- too complex to be controlled by even the best of managers.

No judgement on Fred (and his team) can be made unless the reader realises a) that the marketing instruments were incomprehensible (often highly mathematical) except to the boffins (as Buffett says- if you don't understand it, don't buy it!), so how can general management cope?; and b) could corporate governance ever have coped with the scale and complexity involved here- very important questions for future regulation.

Perhaps the real blame should fall on Government and the Regulators allowing the bull into the china shop in the first place.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good insight into what really happened, 6 Oct. 2013
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A good insight into what really happened and it appears the author had access to various senior members of staff that were prepared to talk (anonymously). That said, there are some gaps in the history here (post NatWest takeover) which appears to have been missed - either the individuals were not prepared to speak or the author didn't think they were important. Shame as they were important at the time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Quality writing, 6 Dec. 2013
I have read a number of books on the 2009 financial crisis. Most of them were interesting but heavy going in parts. This book is an exception because it is well written, informative and in places even witty. It was a real pleasure to read.

Fred Goodwin was clearly an unpleasant individual, with a huge inferiority complex, which he attempted to mask through bullying and rudeness. Clearly the rest of the board should have stood up to him which they singularly failed to do. Alas this failure was probably motivated by a desire to prolong their lucrative remuneration schemes. A lesson to the banking industry I think - overpay your employees and the allegiance will be to their wallets not the business.

There is a slightly curious ending to the book where the author points out that Fred wasn't solely to blame. This is obviously true but nevertheless I think we can heap about 70% of the ordure on his shoulders. This book itself more or less proves that Goodwin was the chief malefactor, and the other villains bit players.

Highly recommended because of the quality of the writing.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AN ACCOUNTANT, BUT NO BANKER, 2 Oct. 2013
By 
DOPPLEGANGER (TEDDY B) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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Iain Martin's account and analysis of the rise and fall of The Royal Bank of Scotland, and included in the hubris, Fred (The Shred) Goodwin, "Making It Happen", leaves no doubt that the underlying all-pervasive problem was allowing and encouraging an accountant, the said Fred Goodwin to be in executive control of a trade viz banking that as a professional accountant he had little or no grounding, experience or aptitude in.

Whist a good finance man and also a first class project manager as he exhibited with the integration of The NatWest Group into RBS, he alas was woefully inadequate to be a leading banker in charge of a large banking group, and he did not take the final few rungs up the ladder to move from 'dotting i's and crossing t's' to become a fully fledged canny Scottish Banker. He was far more at home burying himself in the minutiae of relatively trivial nit-picking such as office tidiness, colour of company cars, office design etc than the more vital banking fundamentals such as prudent lending policies, proper matched funding of its liabilities, and control of the investment banking, and other activities. RBS borrowed far too much, and lent the money very unwisely, and blundered headlong into the highly 'toxic' Collateralized Debt Obligation casino arena.

The author does, however, have a degree of sympathy for Fred Goodwin and asks 'why should he have all the blames, as a lightening rod for everybody else?'. There were plenty of opportunities to stop him, and yet hardly anyone at RBS really tried. Why? Money had quite a lot to do with it, with many staff claiming to be too scared of him to give him bad news or stand up to him, where in reality their reluctance to say anything related to the fact that they were trousering millions of pounds in salary, bonuses and share incentives.

This is an excellent, well written, informative and importantly a very readable book that manages admirably to give good perspective and balance to the circumstances leading up to the banks's insolvency and bailout by the British taxpayer. Yet again the weaknesses and gaping flaws in the Regulatory system and it's so-called 'responsible executives', are brought to the fore, with being named and shamed, high up on the list being the then Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King.

Presumably because of legal restrictions, scant mention is made of Mr Goodwin's affair with a high ranking RBS female executive, which occurred over the period when RBS was coming under severe pressure and needed firm, constant and concentrated management from it's CEO, and may well have been an unwarranted and catastrophic diversion at that time. The fact that a simple 'google' will readily name the woman involved and lead to a long video featuring her, illustrates the uselessness of the so-called super injunctions that the affluent resort to in the belief that their adulterous liaisons will be kept under wraps or should I say duvets!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A vibrant read about events which I suspect continues to this day!, 16 April 2015
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As I was employed by NatWest, latterly (very unfortunately!!) by RBS..met Fred Goodwin on many occasions..without the benefit of hindsight, I saw him as a great problem, particularly with the moronic and weak Chairman we had at the time. The man had the City credibility wrongly given to him, with the 'cleaning' of Clydesdale, when in reality, any half brain could have done as well. Lending to honest to goodness Scots in the main, on a local basis, is relatively straightforward..taking over a multinational Bank, such as NatWest, another matter. The man is aptly described in the book..a hedonistic bully who hid his inadequacies, with his overbearing manner. My great regret, is that the man has not forfeited his entire pension and in prison for the shame he has bought on a great institution, with Bankers who were honest and cared for the client and the good name of the Bank. I spent the bulk of my career in Head Office / Sanctioning and Risk Analysis..so I did see this coming, given the City culture and management structure, which allowed this moron a free reign.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A good read, simple to understand. Quite eye opening how stupid smart people can be., 15 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Making it Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the Men Who Blew Up the British Economy (Paperback)
I have read a few books now on the Financial Crisis. Mainly from the US side off things. This is the first I have read from the UK side off it. Seems a very similar story. It is a quite good read and I have just bought Shredded which looks like a lord off the rings book it is that big hope it foes not bore me . This book however seems to the get the jist off it without boring the backside off me. Quite shocking and seems the RBS was run by a lot off smart but pretty weak minded people who could have put the brakes on long before it got out off hand. Buying that Dutch bank when they knew they were already broke is like "how completely stupid". It is worth a read and it is good that it is simplified for the like off me and gives a better understanding inot some off the finer detail off what actually happened.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant insight, 16 Jan. 2014
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I bought this book because I didn't understand the causes of the economic collapse. Not only does it explain the bank's failures, it gives a brilliant insight into the hidden world of banking. It also gives a brief history of RBS and the Bank of Scotland and its relevance to recent events. There's some lovely ironic humour which benefits from the gift of hindsight when describing the lead up to the crash.
The rise of both the bank's assets and the top men's salaries from thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions and, in the case of the assets, into billions and trillions in a few years took my breath away. Every last one of the villains of the piece are out there - disgraced or not - living on their multi-million pound pensions and pay-offs while you and I are still coping with the consequences.
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5.0 out of 5 stars It names the guilty and about time someone did, 2 Oct. 2013
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An excellent insight into who is to blame and it was not only Fred. Mathewson has got a lot to answer for having recruited both Fred and Johnnie Cameron. Clear that the Bank was missmanged for years starting with Project Columbus which served to create the monster when employees were given rigorous targets dictating what they must sell to unsuspecting victims (customers). If through Project Columbus RBS was sailing on an exciting voyage to a new world the spoils resulting from this 4 year venture were a pox in the shape of CDO's backed by worthless sub-prime mortgages, plus reckless lending from people who should have known better particularly following the management of the bad lending leading up to the recession of the early 1990s. Columbus was supposed to ensure this never happened again. Some hope!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Lessons learned ... or maybe not !, 12 Oct. 2013
As an ex employee I guess it was curiosity more than anything that persuaded me to buy the book, but by the time i'd read the opening chapter I could not put it down and whilst Fred rightly has come under criticism for his part there are many including politicians who have sneaked under the radar if the content in this book is accurate and guess that it is given the depth of research that has been undertaken. Would recommend it to anyone in the financial business to everyone else still a good read but maybe a bit heavy going if not familiar with some of the subject matter. I would hope that the chairman of our still oversized banks take heed at the lessons from this mess, but something tells me greed will once again take over in the future !
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