Advertisement

Bill Winters: downfall of a banking hero

Bill Winters, chief executive of Standard Chartered, was once hailed as a paragon among moneymen. But now he is under fire for a tin-eared defence of his bloated pay packet. Can he hang on to his position?

Bill Winters, CEO of Standard Chartered © Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bill Winters has always seemed the antithesis of the stereotypical banker. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, the former co-head of JP Morgan's investment bank lambasted the "greedy bankers" who sowed the seeds of catastrophe, and colleagues speak warmly of his humour, humility and graciousness. So it is surprising, says the Financial Times, that this paragon of moneymen is now "at the centre of one of the biggest rows over bankers' pay in the UK in years". In his latest guise as head of emerging-markets specialist Standard Chartered, Winters last week attacked "immature and unhelpful" shareholders for protesting about his pay package taking issue specifically with complaints about his £474,000 pension allowance (equivalent to 40% of his cash salary and larger than that of any other banking chief). Cue a firestorm.

A talent for communication

Winters arrived in London with JP Morgan in 1992 and rose to head the bank's investment-banking arm. He was hailed as a great reformer when tapped to revive the ailing Standard Chartered in 2015, and seemed to possess all the credentials, says The Guardian. As a member of the influential independent commission on banking, set up in 2011 to identify and root out bad practice, he was "one of the architects of UK banking reform" and rated highly by the commission's chairman, John Vickers. "He wore his tremendous expertise very lightly," the latter later observed. "He was quite humble in the face of the large questions we had to address." What's more, Winters has hitherto demonstrated a talent for communication and unstuffiness. In 2013, he famously "shed his shirt" and sang a "decent" falsetto solo in a fundraiser for the Young Vic theatre.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Born in Connecticut, Winters, 57, "initially wanted to pursue a career in the diplomatic service", says the FT. He took a degree in international relations followed by an MBA, but "was unable to afford further study and became a banker instead". His 25-year career at JP Morgan began in 1983 and quickly took off: Winters was considered not only "smart", but also an "excellent" risk manager. "His wariness of the exotic financial instruments that proved so disastrous for rivals helped cement the bank's status as the undisputed, strong survivor of the crash." Seen as a strong contender to eventually replace Jamie Dimon as JP Morgan supremo, Winters abruptly quit the US bank in 2009 after the two men fell out. In 2011 the same year he joined the UK banking commission he started a new career, teaming up with Jacob Rothschild and South African billionaire Johann Rupert to set up asset manager Renshaw Bay.

An uncharacteristic loss of cool

If Winters has a flaw, some suggest it is too thin a skin, which might explain his uncharacteristic loss of cool in recent weeks, says The Sunday Times. He may also feel under pressure. He has "an epic task" in turning Standard Chartered around and his performance hasn't been great. After missing key targets, the bank's shares are down almost 20% since 2015. According to one City headhunter, Winters "will almost certainly call it a day next year" if shareholders continue to "make his life difficult". Yet even allies suggest his approach to the row has been foolish. "He's broken two cardinal rules: never comment on your own pay, and don't criticise shareholders in public," says one. Time, perhaps for some quiet reflection. You get the impression that the summer break can't arrive fast enough for Bill Winters.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

Wirecard's Markus Braun: schmoozing the elite with tech twaddle
People

Wirecard's Markus Braun: schmoozing the elite with tech twaddle

Markus Braun, the self-styled tech visionary behind failed German tech firm Wirecard, was adept at fooling the gullible. There were red flags from the…
4 Jul 2020
Great frauds in history: Nick Leeson – the man who broke Barings Bank
People

Great frauds in history: Nick Leeson – the man who broke Barings Bank

"Rogue trader" Nick Leeson’s losses cost his employer, Barings Bank, an estimated £860m, plunging it into bankruptcy.
1 Jul 2020
Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s chief comes of age
People

Jack Dorsey: Twitter’s chief comes of age

Jack Dorsey has had a turbulent ride of late, but his strategy of thinking big and biding his time seems to be paying off.
29 Jun 2020
Great frauds in history: Nevin Shapiro’s groceries scam
Investment strategy

Great frauds in history: Nevin Shapiro’s groceries scam

Nevin Shapiro's "grocery diverting" business was in reality nothing more than a Ponzi scheme.
24 Jun 2020

Most Popular

An economics lesson from my barber
Inflation

An economics lesson from my barber

On reopening his shop after lockdown, Dominic Frisby’s barber doubled his prices. It’s all part of the post-Covid inflation process – and we’re going …
8 Jul 2020
Can Rishi Sunak save the economy with stamp duty cuts and half-price meal deals?
UK Economy

Can Rishi Sunak save the economy with stamp duty cuts and half-price meal deals?

John Stepek runs his eye over the chancellor's £30bn stimulus package and asks if it's enough to get the economy back on its feet after months of lock…
9 Jul 2020
Have small companies lost their edge?
Sponsored

Have small companies lost their edge?

SPONSORED CONTENT – The tectonic plates beneath the modern investing landscape appear to have started moving in new directions
26 Jun 2020