Inside Track: John Peace prepares to shake up Standard Chartered board

David Hellier
Follow David
In the past few days there have been suggestions that relations within the Standard Chartered boardroom aren’t all that they might be.

The emerging markets-focused bank survived the financial crisis intact only to see its reputation damaged last year by getting caught up in a sanctions-busting scandal.``

The event led to questions over the chairmanship of Sir John Peace, partly because as well as the bank position, which he loves, he holds two other chairmanship roles at Experian and Burberry. Some investors argued Sir John needed to focus on two positions at most.

Since then, Sir John has announced plans to step down from the board of Experian, the credit check group, before June next year, which in theory would clear him to remain at Standard Chartered.

However, this has not stopped rumours that he is about leave the bank’s board, with one story a few days ago suggesting Naguib Kheraj, a former finance director at Barclays, is waiting in the wings to take over.

Sir John has made it clear he has no intention of stepping down and that he is not amused at the leaks of his imminent demise.

He likes the job – of the three it is said to be his favourite – and feels he has much to contribute still, including freshening up a board that comprises five directors who have been in situ for around 10 years or more.

One theory is that chief executive Peter Sands, who, it is said, rather fancied the job as governor of the Bank of England before it was handed to Mark Carney, has his eyes on the role of chairman, with group finance director Richard Meddings stepping up to replace him as chief executive.

Bank insiders describe all the talk as “sheer speculation” but the situation is in danger of deflecting the top brass from getting on with the job.

While the focus has so far concentrated on the extent to which Royal Mail shares may have been underpriced in the sale, there has been much discussion in the City about how many retail investors were poorly catered for in the offering.

“The way the issue was handled caused a lot of disenfranchisement on the part of retail investors,” says Steven Fine of Peel Hunt, who produced a survey this week showing that nearly half of those who applied for shares will have been negatively impacted by the experience.

Government will need to do better on allocation policy and cut-off points (those who applied for more than £10,000 got nothing) when it next attempts a sell-off or risk a boycott.