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Politics & Current Affairs
Publication Date
06 September 2012
Hardback (also available as an eBook)
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Birlinn Limited


How HBOS Wrecked the Best Bank in Britain

Foreword by Alistair Darling


eBook also available from the iBookstore

'We are indebted to Ray Perman for giving us a powerful lesson on what happens when you usurp the wisdom of a banking culture acquired over centuries for the pursuit of market share and profit at all and any cost.' – The Scotsman

'[An] admirably lucid account' – Independent on Sunday

In 1995 Bank of Scotland celebrated 300 years as Britain’s oldest commercial bank. Voted ‘most admired bank’, respected by competitors, applauded by investors and trusted by customers, it looked forward to the next three hundred. Less than 15 years later it was bust, reviled as part of the spectacular collapse of HBOS, the conglomerate it had joined. One of the high-profile victims of the credit crunch, its spectacular fall caused seismic shock waves throughout the financial world. What went wrong? Ray Perman, who has followed the Bank since the 1970s when he was a Financial Times journalist, uncovered the story from documents and dozens of interviews with people at the top in Bank of Scotland and HBOS – from being the bank of choice for the high-rolling Monte Carlo mega-rich to losing £10 billion. It is a cautionary tale for our times. In the complex world of modern global finance, the brilliant men who ran the company ignored the simple banking rules that their predecessors learned the hard way three centuries before.

Ray Perman was a journalist in London and Edinburgh for thirty years. He was a co-founder of the business magazine Insider Publications and was Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise from 1999 to 2003. In 2011 he was appointed Chairman of The James Hutton Institute, the first institute of its type in Europe dedicated to making new contributions to the understanding of key global issues such as food, energy and environmental security. Ray Perman is the author of The Man Who Gave Away His Island: A Life of John Lorne Campbell of Canna (2010).

Alistair Darling has been a Labour Member of Parliament since 1987. He was one of only three people to have served in the Cabinet continuously from Labour’s victory in 1997 until its defeat in 2010 and was Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2007 to 2010 during the global banking crash. He was one of the first to warn of the severity of the coming economic slump, saw many of the events at first hand and helped shape British and international policy responses.