Stephen Hester: the City's bomb disposal expert

Cartoon Bomb

Stephen Hester is the City's version of William James, the veteran bomb disposal expert played by Jeremy Renner in the film The Hurt Locker.

He dons a large suit, scans around to see if anybody else fancies the task in hand and – realising he's the only person daft enough to do it – waddles towards a ticking bomb. None of them has blown up, so far.

He's performed that task at British Land and then, of course, as boss of Royal Bank of Scotland, the Fred Goodwin-designed device that threatened to blow the UK economy to smithereens. Presently he's defusing the precarious situation at insurer RSA, which, while it doesn't have the firepower to harm us all, has the potential to inflict some rather nasty flesh wounds on its own shareholders.

After problems at its Irish arm and a £200m writedown, Hester arrived in February, tied up a £775m rights issue and announced more than £600m of disposals. We will get an update this week on what's next, with the City expecting job cuts and another writedown.

Meanwhile, trading will be hit by flood losses in the UK, weak results in Canada after a harsh winter, and losses from the 2010 Chilean earthquake. Still, Hester's given himself three years to make this one safe. The clock's barely started ticking.

Powered by article was written by Simon Goodley, for The Observer on Sunday 3rd August 2014 11.22 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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