I was thinking about things earlier. Reminiscing.
Many years ago, I ended up doing some work for the Royal Bank of Scotland, a UK bank which has subsequently hit the rocks. It wasn’t deliberate – I was doing some work for a bank called Coutts, which was then taken over by RBS. They “inherited” me!
Now, Coutts had its faults, but I was privileged to work there with some of the most intelligent people I’d ever met – and these guys were kind enough to include me in their circles. The bank itself was very prestigious and had a mantra of doing things properly – their clients were few in number but had very high expectations and lots of money to boot.
RBS took over and quickly promoted a “supermarket” culture. I remember on guy, a really switched-on bloke, who worked at director-level, was fired because he missed a deadline. I knew this guy well enough – he routinely juggled budgets worth tens of millions – to know that he’d probably had some impossible deadline imposed upon him. And the only thing anybody heard from the bank was that “so-and-so had decided to pursue his career eldewhere”. Goodness knows how many other good people this happened to. It successfully turned a culture where people were productive and successful, into one in which they feared (rightly) for their jobs. In my final months there, I was asked to investigate several technologies, to save money, and was told up-front what the conclusion should be. The last straw for me was when I was in a meeting discussing something with an RBS “strategist”, who eventually said to me “Look, who owns who here?” At that point, I gave up and just started taking the money. For the last period, I used to take my laptop up to London and basically did my own thing (learning .Net, which had just come out).
I mention this just to give some insight into my past. Even my wife doesn’t understand fully what I used to do – she’d watch me leave the house each morning and not really have much of a clue what I did all day. And of course, anybody who follows the news would also be aware that the same people who were running RBS at that time later became very publicly unstuck. And I must personally admit to never owning either an RBS, or a Coutts, bank account.