IT’S been another tough year in the City. Stock markets are still nervy, the recovery is by no means secure and a double-dip is on many people’s cards. But it is hard times that form characters. Our five nominees for Personality of the Year have proved their mettle over the past 12 months. One is a banker who showed extraordinary flair and quickness of thought during the crisis and its aftermath. Two have spoken up for the City in its darkest hour. The others are tough-minded British businessmen; one who has fought unions and adversity to save a great British company, and the other is a long-time CEO who has built his company into one of the biggest success stories in the country. All five have shown nerve and toughness, and have contributed to keeping the City as the world’s financial centre. Long may they continue to do so.
Don’t miss the City event of the year – get online now and book your table for the City A.M. Awards on Thursday 28 October 2010 at Grange St Paul’s Hotel, London EC4. Call 02082674043 or see www.CityAMAwards.com
BOB DIAMOND, PRESIDENT, BARCLAYS CAPITAL
His massive bonuses – he is said to have pocketed £20m this year – are what makes Diamond a pin-up boy for those who love the City, and a regular on the dart-boards of those who hate it, but there is no doubting that the American has been one of the winners of the downturn.
Diamond’s Barclays Capital was responsible for a whopping 87 per cent of Barclay’s total earnings for the first half of the year, with his team making £3.4bn. True, job cuts are planned, but BarCap still plans to end the year with 10 per cent more staff, after it expands into Asia and bolsters its European equities and advisory unit.
Diamond moved to London in 1997 and profited during the boom years, but it was in late 2008 that he showed his quality, holding his nerve to pick up Lehman Brothers’
American operations, a deal that netted him $11.2bn. So far, he seems unstoppable. If the City is about making money in bad times as well as good, then nobody represents it better.
BORIS JOHNSON, MAYOR OF LONDON
Goodness knows, the City has needed a cheerleader in the corridors of power over the past couple of years. And just when he was called for, there he was – mop of blond hair flying, and bicycle shining.When all around him were calling for banker’s heads, Boris Johnson had the gumption to stick up for the capital’s engine-room, calling FSA head Adair Turner’s proposals for punitive taxes on the financial services “crackers”. At the start of the year he went to Brussels and spoke passionately against regulation that could have strangled hedge funds and private equity. At Davos, he told the world’s business elite that London’s free-market ethos trumps the Swiss quality of life any day.
When bankers were public enemy number one, he risked unpopularity among the electorate – and the more populist wing of his own party – to stick up for them. In the face of opposition, he did what he thought was right. Bravo to that.
PAUL PINDAR, CEO, CAPITA
IN a world of big personalities and CEOs who are sometimes more focused on the headlines than the bottom line, there are still some quiet success stories sbout. One is Paul Pindar, who has been the CEO?of Capita since 1999, in which time he has grown its annual profits from £36m to £258m in 2009. If solid perfomance in bad conditions is the sign of solidity and good leadership then Capita looks unshakeable: its profits for the difficult first half of 2010 were up 12 per cent.
Capita has already landed major contracts and renewals worth £523m in that time, and acquired seven companies at a cost of £107m. Its dividends increased 18 per cent, and over the past five years it has returned £1.03bn to shareholders. Although it’s best known for its government work, that actually accounts for about a tenth of its turnover. Among its City work, it looks after back-office operations for the Pru.
As cash-strapped companies look to outsource more operations Pindar will only go from strength to strength. One of the City’s unsung heroes.
WILLIE WALSH, CEO, BRITISH AIRWAYS
At some points this year Willie Walsh must have thought that he was in a bad dream. He endured late-night union discussions to avoid a cabin-crew walkout, only to find that the other side were tweeting details of their meetings. Another meeting was invaded by angry placard-waving Marxists. And then flights were grounded by ash from a volcano. As if the airline industry wasn’t tough enough.
But BA’s CEO has kept on fighting to save the carrier. He might have done it. The Iberia merger sidestepped the problems of Heathrow expansion, by moving the company’s centre of operations to Madrid. And in April BA won antitrust clearance to run transatlantic flights with American Airlines. Recently many predicted BA’s demise. Just over half way through the year, Walsh was talking about “creating a platform to create a global carrier.” It has been a heroic effort by the Dubliner.
ANGELA KNIGHT, CEO, BRITISH BANKERS’ ASSOCIATION
AT?the height of the financial crisis and in in its aftermath Angela Knight was everywhere. If a bank went into meltdown, announced a fresh crisis or came under fire from headline-seeking politicians, you could bet that she would soon be on the airwaves, whatever the hour. In its hour of need, she was the City’s Knight in shining armour.
Others have defended the City with passion – including Boris Johnson, above – but Knight’s USP was that she was one of the few people who understands the inner workings of the City and the higher echelons of government, having served as a Treasury Minister with Ken Clarke in the 90s.
Nobody else has defended the banks in the media as vociferously or as determinedly as Knight. For that, she deserves the City’s thanks.