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Making It Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the men who blew up the British economy Paperback – 10 Apr 2014
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'This insight in to the character of Fred and the political climate of the mid-2000s is one of many that make Martin's account of the RBS crash a must-read for students of financial folly' Martin Vander Weyer, The Spectator
'Brilliantly told' The Guardian
'It has left me panting for more' The Scotsman
'In this guide to the financial crisis and RBS's role in it, Iain Martin probably comes closer than anyone to revealing the truth about one of Britain's most hated businessmen' Sunday Times
' Excellent... Wonderful stuff, scary and funny at the same time... Alarming' Independent
'Enlightening...Pacy... Anyone with an interest in what exactly happened [with RBS, Fred Godwin and the men who blew up the British economy] and why will enjoy this book' Financial Times
'Martin's book, I have to say, is superb. Clear and compulsively readable, it explains what happened and why with elegance and a strong sense of fair play. I'd spent much of the past few years in a fog of incomprehension and that fog has now lifted' Daily Mail
'What really makes Making it Happen work is the slow inevitability of what's about to occur. There's something strangely intoxicating about watching these titans of finance coming to the gradual realisation that their castles have been built on sand' Telegraph
'Do not read this book if you have high blood pressure. The collapse of RBS; the multibillion-pound bailout (courtesy of you and me), and the smug indifference of the guilty men is one of the parables of the ills of contemporary capitalism. Iain Martin tells it brilliantly, mixing fury-inducing narrative with an acute eye for the broader conclusion. Of all the many tales about the global financial crash, I have not read a more compelling one' Observer
'Martin ably decodes financial jargon while sympathising with the public's head shaking incredulity at the size and fragility of the financial system... Fascinating' Breaking Views
'A stonkingly good book... well placed for the Christmas market... many of the cast of characters need little introduction to business people in Scotland, but reading about the wheeling and dealing as if it was a racy novel, is compelling stuff' Jock Business Quarter (Scotland)
'A gripping account of the rise and fall of the Royal Bank of Scotland... Anyone who is interested in politics or finance will enjoy this book. Anyone embarking on a career in banking should be made to read it' Wall Street Journal
'A painstaking analysis of the calamitous collapse of the bank... Required reading for any banker who tends to wake up with brilliant ideas on how to expand the business' --Patrick Hosking, The Times
About the Author
Iain Martin is a journalist and broadcaster. He comes from Paisley (as does Fred Goodwin). Iain was editor of The Scotsman newspaper from 2001-2004, and then its sister paper Scotland on Sunday from 2004-2006. In 2006 he moved to The Sunday Telegraph, where he was deputy editor. He has since been a columnist on politics for various newspapers: The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail. He contributes to Financial News and Standpoint magazine. He has presented editions of Beyond Westminster, Week in Westminster and What the Papers Say for BBC Radio 4. He lives in London.
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Top customer reviews
Whilst Brown is a bit player in this book - the book of course is not about him, but without his policies as Chancellor, Goodwin might not have been in such an easy position to have gone from being an accountant with no banking experience whatsoever, then after a couple of years at the Clydesdale Bank, to within the space of literally a handful of years, transformed the similarly provincial Scottish bank RBS into a monster with a toxic balance sheet of £1.9 TRILLION - £400 BILLION larger than the entire UK economy. There are of course many other culpable figures in this story; members of the parochial and at times nationalistic Scottish establishment who wanted a Scottish bank to one of the world's biggest. Many others were either too afraid of being `shredded' to speak out, or merely happy to keep the bonuses rolling in. Alex Salmond even has a couple of cameo roles - including when he wrote Goodwin a nationalistic `thumbs up' letter on the takeover of ABM Amro, a venture which took place when the warning lights on the control panel were flashing and the klaxons sounding as in any good disaster movie one minute before the music finally stopped. (Ironically, Banco Santander - one of RBS's partners in the venture, unknown to Goodwin, immediately sold off their profitable part of ABM Amro, making them a profit of 2.4bn in three weeks - leaving RBS owning a third of the bank, but 70% of the balance sheet).
Much of the entire financial services industry - and many who sailed in her, were existing in a money- go-round of targets, investments, take overs, and the design and sale of financial products that hardly anybody understood, which were all there for one purpose - to make money, particularly for themselves. Everybody was at it. Bankers, accountants, regulators, auditors & ratings agencies. The more money was made, the bigger the commission and bonuses for all concerned. Individuals were making £10 million a year bonuses.
The entire UK banking boom of the years following the official abolition of boom & bust seemed little more than a stack of pyramid schemes, interlocked through a web of complicated instruments which nobody appeared to understand, built around mathematical formulae and hedging where nobody lost. Markets went up - people made money. Markets went down - they made more. Loans and mortgages were being bundled up into packages and sold off as quickly as possible thus allowing them to loan even more. Banks were even creating products where they were actually betting against the punters who had been daft enough to buy their own products! What could possibly go wrong? Well, the American sub-prime crash saw to that. The rest is, unfortunately history.
Fred Goodwin cannot but come out of this in any other light as an ambitions megalomaniac and bully who appeared to have more interest in things like the colour of bank carpets, cars, or the shape of filing cabinets, than the intricacies of how banking actually worked. He continually displayed extreme arrogance - right up to when in December 2007 he turned up on Alistair Darlings Edinburgh doorstep with a gift wrapped panettone demanding that the Governor of the Bank of England `do something' to get him out of the mess of his own making.
If you want to find out how boom went to bust - there can be few better and more easily readable books. You do not need to be an accountant to understand what went wrong.
Martin starts very early on in the book by going into the historical background of the RBS and Scottish banking. This backdrop to Scottish history gives the reader a better understanding of the current players involved in the crisis and why Scottish Patriotism of both government ministers and bank managers may have influenced key decisions on the progression of the bank. That of course is only one thread of many Martin goes on to speak about and is so intertwined with so may other major factors (nice bonuses is certainly an incentive for most to turn a blind eye). Its particularly concerning that the bank became so big it became "ungovernable" and that Fred goodwin wanted to walk away with a £700.00 a year pension. I think Martin has spent alot of time scrutinizing RBS and i think his narrative is very unbiased account. Bought his other book he wrote recently but still to read. Looking forward to it.
Some of these institutions are too big and too important to a country's economy and well being that the government of the day cannot and will not let them go under.
It is a cliche to say lessons are learnt or will be learnt. No doubt regulations are in force to prevent a recurrence of similar crisis. But no amount of technology or regulation will guard against cycles of boom and bust. The driving force will always be greed, a human fraility. All that the players in the game need is a certain amount of luck, not to be caught out severely in the bust or by the long arm of what appears to be an ineffectual law
The 'genius' Goodwin bought a rotten apple- Dutch Bank in financial dire straights. Then he went for the sub-prime mortgages investments (USA). Thats what started the financial melt down in 2008. But hey, who cares? Let us poor taxpayers bail him and his colleagues, and his bank out. Problem sorted. Very insightful book. Well recommended.
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Iain Martin has written this book with incredible detail & his account of events is...Read more
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