Andrea Leadsom launched her parliamentary career by recalling her own small part in one of the most seismic of City disasters.
One of the topics of her maiden speech in 2010 was the collapse of Barings bank 15 years earlier. It was a Square Mile catastrophe so dramatic that the institution’s demise, caused by the rogue trading of one Nick Leeson, was made into a film starring Ewan McGregor.
So it is easy to see why Leadsom, as she addressed MPs, chose to recount her observations from the ringside seat provided by her former career in the City.
“At the time, I was managing the investment banks team at Barclays, and we were the principal banker to Barings,” she told the Commons.
“The collapse came on a Friday evening and the markets were threatening chaos, but Eddie George, the then governor of the Bank of England, called together a small group of bankers, including myself, and we worked over the weekend to calm the fears of banks that were exposed to Barings.”
At that point, Leadsom was 31 and still in the early stages of a City career that lasted more two decades. She started working in the financial sector for BZW, the investment banking arm of Barclays, before taking the position of financial institutions director at the bank in 1993.
She went on to become managing director of her brother-in-law’s hedge fund, De Putron Fund Management, from 1997 to 1999. She then spent a decade as head of corporate governance and as a senior investment officer at the fund manager Invesco Perpetual.
Leadsom has flown under the radar in terms of the Conservative leadership race; the same might be said about her financial career.
One senior Tory, who also had a lengthy and high-profile City career, said: “I had never heard of her before she became an MP. I’ve been reading newspaper reports and it sounds as though she had quite high-profile jobs.”
The Guardian contacted several senior City sources who worked at BZW and Barclays at the same time as Leadsom, but could find none who could recall her spell at the bank, which concluded 19 years ago.
However, memories are fresher of Leadsom’s move in to fund management. One City source, who knew the energy minister when she was working in corporate governance – or policing company boardrooms – at Invesco Perpetual, said: “You don’t survive in the City as a woman without being very good at the details. Financial services is going to be a key area in Brexit negotiations and she is clearly the best qualified candidate in that regard.
“For some organisations, governance is a role that can be taken on as a flexible working role more easily than actual portfolio management. If I recall she was already getting involved in politics and so the job as head of governance would have given her more latitude.”
Even so, if Leadsom was working in finance with one eye on politics, she entered politics while retaining some focus on the City – and has used experience gained in her former career to score significant points.
She perhaps first came to prominence as an MP on the Treasury select committee, where her robust questioning of the former Barclays boss Bob Diamond about Libor rigging at the bank elicited rave reviews from some political commentators.
While championing the City as an industry of “vital importance” for the UK economy, she has also called for bankers to be jailed.
In 2013, during a debate on the financial services banking reform bill, Leadsom said: “The British people are still furious about the behaviour of bankers and they have every right to feel that way. Banks were already seen as greedy and arrogant. They have now reached the depths of humiliation in the wake of the Libor manipulation, PPI mis-selling and bank swaps mis-selling.
“Individual bankers are rightly being investigated by the police. I and all colleagues in the chamber hope that if criminality is proven, they will go to jail and bear the same brunt of punishment as any other criminal.”
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