Ex-OFT expert brought in to probe banks

SIR John Vickers, the former boss of the Office of Fair Trading, has been appointed to lead a wide-ranging review into the future shape of the banking industry.

Announcing the appointment in the Commons, chancellor George Osborne said Vickers would be asked to investigate the best “size, scale and function” of banks in the future.

He will be supported by four other commissioners. Martin Taylor, the former chief executive of Barclays, Claire Spottiswoode, the ex-head of gas regulator Ofgas, Will Winters, the former co-head of investment banking at JPMorgan and Martin Wolf, the FT columnist, will all contribute.

The review will examine the merits of separating the retail and investment arms of universal banks, potentially ushering in a British version of the now-defunct Glass Steagall Act.

Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable has repeatedly said the government should pursue a full-scale separation of investment and retail banking, to ensure no institution is “too big to fail”.

He said yesterday: “We hope and expect this commission will produce recommendations to ensure [the crisis] will never happen again.”

Sir John, who built a reputation as a consumer champion during his time at the OFT, will also be asked to assess whether reforms will inject more competition into the banking sector.

Osborne said the previous Labour government had “wilfully consolidated” the banking sector, leading to less choice for consumers. And the chancellor told MPs he would wait for the findings of the review, which will conclude in a year’s time, before deciding how to dispose of the taxpayers’ stake in Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland and Northern Rock.

Sir John is one of the most experienced members of Britain’s economic elite. A Treasury source described his credentials as “copper bottomed”.


Sir John boasts a rare pedigree. Educated at Oriel College, Oxford, he cut his teeth in the oil industry before making his name with an unconventional analysis of the merits of privatisation in 1985. He went on to teach at Oxford, becoming chief economist at the Bank of England in 1998. Sir John led the Office of Fair Trading between 2000 and 2005, during which time he became known as a consumer champion.

A mathematician and economist by training, Spottiswoode began her career at the Treasury before starting her own software company. She was director-general of Ofgas, the utilities regulator, between 1993 and 1998, and sits on the boards of Tullow Oil, Gas Strategies and Bergesen ASA. Spottiswoode holds a CBE for services to the gas industry.

Taylor worked as a journalist with Reuters and the Financial Times before becoming chief executive of Courtaulds Textiles in 1990. He ran Barclays from 1994, quitting amid bitter recriminations in 1998, and has since served as an adviser to Goldman Sachs. Earlier this year, Taylor said investment banking was “parasitic” on retail banking.

The Financial Times’ chief economics commentator, Wolf has a string of prizes on his mantlepiece including the Wincott Foundation senior award for excellence in journalism between 1989 and 1997. Wolf has been a forum fellow at the annual Davos conference since 1999, and a member of its media council since 2006. He holds a CBE for services to journalism.

Winters joined JPMorgan in 1983 with a degree in international relations from Colgate University in New York. He studied part-time for an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania before working his way up through corporate finance, energy swaps, derivatives and fixed income, moving to London in 1993. Winters is JPMorgan’s co-head of investment banking.