The collapse of Barings Bank and Nick Leeson’s role in it is one of the most spectacular debacles in financial history. Nick’s role, as the “rogue trader”, cost the bank £860m and resulted in a four year spell in a Singapore jail, during which he was divorced and diagnosed with colon cancer. Two decades later, Nick continues to use his experiences to deliver a cautionary tale to audiences and offer his personal perspective into the current economy and the world today.
The collapse of Barings Bank and Nick Leeson’s role in it is one of the most spectacular debacles in financial history. Yet, more than two decades later, there continue to be countless cases of rogue trading, financial scandal and corporate fraud in many industries around the world.
Despite huge advances in technology, security and IT, at the heart of all of these cases lies human error and poor judgement. Two decades later, Nick continues to use his experiences to deliver a cautionary tale to audiences and offer his personal perspective into the current economy and the world today.
In the mid-1980s, Nick Leeson landed a job as a clerk with royal bank Coutts, followed by a string of positions with other banks, ending up at Barings, where he quickly made an impression and was promoted to the trading floor.
Before long, Nick was appointed manager of a new operation in futures markets on the Singapore Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) and was soon making millions for Barings by betting on the future direction of the Nikkei Index. His bosses back in London, who viewed his large profits with glee, placed their trust in Nick and rewarded him with an extravagant lifestyle to match.
However, Leeson soon began to mount losses and, in an effort to extricate himself and maintain his reputation, he requested extra funds to continue trading. The losses kept on mounting, and within a few months the bank had lost $1.3 billion, bringing down the 233 year old investment bank. Nick subsequently spent four years in a Singapore prison, where his wife divorced him, he contracted cancer of the colon and attempted suicide.
Two decades on, Nick continues to recount the sorry tale with a frank self-awareness and discuss the dangers in the lax security checks he was subject to, and the absence of monitoring by his employer.
Nick’s cautionary tale and expertise within risk management, company culture and mental wellbeing is still as relevant today as it was then, delivered via conferences, keynotes and after-dinner appearances.