Maybe RBS needs a different kind of boss?

So Roger Carr of the Confederation of British Industry thinks that when Stephen Hester failed to receive his bonus of nearly a million pounds the prospect of finding the best person to run a British bank next time we nationalise one was damaged. He said so in The Times. (Yes, I know. Paywall. Boo.) 

"The chances of enticing others to take on difficult tasks of national importance have undoubtedly been jeopardised," wrote Carr.

Let's unpack that, shall we?

First, why does he believe it would be necessary to "entice" someone? What if, when a CEO left, everyone else at the bank moved up a slot in the hierarchy and someone from university were recruited for the job at the bottom of the rung? Is that just too silly as a theory? Or are chief executives of banks so solipsistically creative that you could never learn to do their jobs by watching them closely and talking to them about it five days out of seven? To assume not suggests that the wrong deputy has been recruited. Let's hope that Stephen Hester has a bevy of deputies watching his every move, so they can compete against each other for the position of CEO of a recently nationalised bank the next time it comes up.

Or why not consider the  the notion that the most important quality to look for in the best person to be head of a publicly owned bank is that they are not motivated solely by money? Quite apart from anything else, to be motivated solely by money would make them, charitably, a loose cannon. Less charitably is would make them a sociopath and potentially a criminal who would do anything in their own financial interests. How about a chief executive for RBS who would be motivated to do a good job because they have a sense of honour in addition to the requisite banking skills? Surely if, as bankers always argue, you need the right person for the job then the criteria must include that the bank is publicly owned and that therefore the person to run it should be able to see outside of their own narrow intererests? You must cut your cloth accordingly. How about enticing someone with £1.2 million a year and the applause of a grateful nation?

Many of us chose jobs because we thought they'd be interesting, not because they'd enhance our prospects of being buried in a golden coffin one day. I'm just saying. I don't believe that banking, when done right, can be *so* personally unrewarding that the only consideration of the people employed in that industry must be money. If it is, then I won't be the first person to suggest that it's not being done right. Moreover, those who suggest that the value of a job, or the skill of the person doing it, is only quantifiable by the salary attached to it are ideologues as surely as Stalin was. And by that I mean, once again, unhinged.

Robert Kennedy was right about the value of money.

Stephen Hester has a basic salary of £1.2 million a year and has taken home £11 million in shares and cash since October 2008.

The idea that RBS, or any other bank, would have trouble recruiting someone brilliant with this remuneration package is so entirely ludicrous that the most surprising thing is that someone - Roger Carr - who was previously assumed to be of sound mind would go on the record saying it.

It brings to mind another recent story. It was about the BBC - also a public sector organisation - and how it will be looking for a "cut-price director general" as the replacement for Mark Thompson, who apparently earns £671,000 a year. Apparently they'll be looking for someone who's prepared to be paid less.

And which names were being bandied about? Helen Boaden and Caroline Thompson. Oh, and some token bloke called George Entwistle.

So what do we learn from this?



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