EIBF 2017: Iain Martin with Ross McEwan as Chairman, How the City got Slicker

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Iain Martin with Ross McEwan, Chief Executive, Royal Bank of Scotland
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Iain Martin is a current columnist for "The Times" and a former editor of "The Scotsman" as well as being the founding editor of a pro-market news website. In the Chair was very appropriately, Ross McEwan, the Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Ross McEwan started by asking the audience to ensure that any questions were directed at Iain Martin and not to him as CEO of RBS! He referred also to the earlier book which had been produced about RBS ("Making it Happen") which his wife Stephanie had had signed by the same author. Ross McEwan appreciated that there might be questions on both books. Before handing over to Iain Martin he said that this session was really about the most recent book that Iain Martin had written called "Crash Bang Wallop".

Iain Martin said that it was really about the thinking inside RBS and the way that people thought it right to conduct operations. It seemed as though people were making money out of money - and this appeared to have everyone's blessing. Martin did confess that the book had been commissioned, but it also wanted to look at what went had happened. He added that as a child of the 1980s with a Harry Potter and Hogsworth background he wanted to know just what had gone so badly wrong. So this book was the result.

He said that the title, "Crash Bang Wallop" had been adapted up by him as the title because the "Crash" explained where we are with the situation and what happened, "Bang" was the big bang in the system and "Wallop" was really what should be done now - and to come - to remedy the situation.

Martin was a great believer in the city and he maintained that there was a huge amount of experience in London, although there needed to be changes made after the meltdown following the crisis. He did not feel that either Paris, Frankfurt or New York had this wealth of experience. While some of these possible locations have a history of experience Martin felt that change was not on the cards. He felt that the change to electronic data handling had been a revolution in itself. He said that the internet had transformed and changed lives. All this will lead to the banks being even more open than before.

Ross McEwan asked whether he had been phased by the number of people who refused to speak to the author, "on the record". No, Martin said - although those aged sixty or seventy would still be beset by the same problems. From this he felt that the city still had a somewhat "closed mentality" and his feeling was that there needed to be a greater awareness of political aspects and of the politicians.

When asked by the audience what problems he foresaw today, Martin replied that there was increasing concern among banks that too much was being spent on car finance. Martin said that in looking round the country you would have thought that everyone owned a new car. Actually nearly all these loans were being financed by the car manufacturers themselves making them virtually lending agents in their own right.

Ross McEwan asked what Iain Martin would be writing on next - would it be "The Recovery of RBS"?

Martin laughed and said he was always available!

This event was held in the Baillie Gifford Main Theatre and was supported by The Institute of Directors.