Inside Track: Reflections on Standard Chartered’s boardroom turmoil

David Hellier
Follow David

WHEN there’s as much background noise coming out of a boardroom as there has been from Standard Chartered’s in recent weeks, it’s a fair bet that changes are on the horizon.

Yesterday the emerging markets bank dropped the bombshell that its finance director for the past seven years, Richard Meddings, was leaving. Meddings, so chief executive Peter Sands told me, was “reflecting on things over Christmas and decided it was the natural point to step away.”

Meddings’ reflective thoughts are not likely to have come to him in a purely abstract way, though.

They would surely have included reflections on the bank’s recent profits warning, its Iranian sanctions busting admission that cost it £415m, and a recent decision by the Bank of England regulator to take the function of risk control out of his hands.

Though the bank had a fine financial crisis there has been investor disquiet at the lack of progress over the past year during which its shares have performed poorly.

Had Meddings not concluded his reflections in the way he did, who knows who might have been feeling the pressure today.

Meddings has had a fine career at Standard Chartered and will be an asset to most companies in the future. But his chances of taking over at any point from Sands, if he had once aspired to, had surely been diminished by the problems the bank has suffered in recent months.

Sands stays on, for the time being, but it now looks clearer than ever who his successor will be.

Mike Rees, the chief executive officer of the bank’s wholesale business (which is merging with consumer businesses) becomes deputy chief executive. Chairman Sir John Peace’s boardroom shake-up has well and truly begun.

Investment bankers are waiting to hear which of their houses will be appointed to play a role in one of the biggest transactions this year, the likely sale of £6bn or more of the government’s shares in Lloyds Banking Group.

After the grilling some of the Royal Mail advisers were subjected to by MPs, it is perhaps a surprise that anybody would want the gig at all, especially as fees will be slim.

At least this time, pricing will be easier. Given the shares are already listed, advisers have a guide price and then only need to calculate the discount needed to attract buyers.