Saturday 7 October 2017 10:36 am

Lloyds Bank chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio on stress: "It nearly broke me"

Lloyds’ chief executive has said the job nearly “broke” him, dealing with serious insomnia shortly after joining the bank in 2011.

In an interview with the Times magazine, Antonio Horta-Osorio discussed the details of his troubles. Within months of starting the top job, he spent nine days at the Priory clinic to prevent a nervous breakdown, after his insomnia reached a tipping point, that he said was affecting his abilities.

“It almost broke me,” he said.

“I thought I was Superman. I felt I could do everything. Before this, I had thought that the less sleep and the more work, the better. It showed me I was not Superman. And I became a better person, more patient, more understanding and more considerate. It was humbling but you learn.”

He saw a psychiatrist who provided ongoing help.

"I was not used to asking for a lot of advice or showing a lot of [emotion] because I'd been a CEO since the age of 29 and it is a very lonely job – people require leadership, even in moments of adversity and difficulty," he said. "To go from there to this humble experience and learning to 'share' with someone else, yes, it required some learning, I admit."

Speaking of the bank’s state at the time, Horta-Osorio described it as “life-or-death”, saying he felt “very personally about leading the team to turn it around and give the taxpayers’ money back”.

In May this year, the government sold its final stake in Lloyds, with the exchequer receiving £900m more than its original investment nine years ago.

Horta-Osorio said then it was due to the hard work of everyone at Lloyds, “but the job is not done”, and the bank would use its renewed position of strength “to help Britain prosper”.

The Lloyds boss spoke in detail about his experience to the Times magazine in an effort to raise more awareness around mental health problems at work.

He plans to initially put his senior leadership through a programme he compiled with the psychiatrist who helped him, Dr Stephen Pereira. Around 200 executives will have access to the measures that helped him spanning nutrition analysis, mindfulness, and psychological testing.

The aim is that this culture will filter down throughout the business, and help flag that Horta-Osorio's experience is not an isolated one.

MetLife research from last year ​found that rising stress levels among investment bankers have led two thirds to consider quitting their jobs, but many felt that talking about their stress in the workplace will damage their careers.