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Hubris: How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Birlinn Ltd (6 Sept. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780270518
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780270517
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.5 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 206,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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'

'an engaging account of HBOS's downfall' --Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times --Breaking Views

'...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

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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, executive directors were allowed to appoint the non-executives - the exact opposite of what's meant to happen in a PLC.

Perman makes clear that, until some 25 years ago, the 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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