Overview: Meddings, the happy banker

It is possible that Richard Meddings, group FD at Standard Chartered Bank, is
the happiest finance director in a UK bank at the moment. As the rest of the
sector teeters on the brink of disaster, Meddings can rest easy after Standard
Chartered bucked the current trend of banking disaster with a jump in pre-tax
profits of 19% to £3.2bn.

What’s happened

When writing about Meddings it’s necessary to dwell more on the past than the
future because, well, who knows what’s just around the corner for banks in the
current climate?

After a career that included being group FD at The Woolwich and chief
operating officer at Barclays Private Clients, Meddings is unusual in that he is
one of the few bank FDs for whom the word embattled would be entirely
inappropriate at this moment in time ­ despite the crisis afflicting the credit

Those profits speak volumes and so does Standard’s ‘cautious and thoughtful
approach’ on which Meddings was recently quoted. Not for Standard exotic
collateralised debt obligations and subprime investments. No, this is the bank,
under the stewardship of Meddings and CEO Peter Sands,that has stayed out of the
mire by keeping a careful eye on liquidity and maintaining its focus on banking
in the Far East which simply didn’t become as highly leveraged as the UK and the

That emerging market has stood Standard Chartered in good stead and Meddings’
counsel, and that of Sands, has been sought more widely.

Those of you with an eye for detail will remember that Sands and Meddings
were part of the government’s ‘crisis cabinet’ of bankers when planning the
first bailout intended to lift the banks out of what seemed like terminal woe.
In fact the duo submitted their plan to save UK banks as early as September last
year to business minister Shriti Vadera making them among the earliest to see
that something big needed doing –
and fast.

That involvement, at the heart of the rescue effort, means that Meddings is
one of the best placed FDs in the country with probably more insight into the
crisis than most of those working on Threadneedle Street. If other bank
executives have garnered more attention in recent weeks it is no doubt because
Meddings has helped keep himself and his institution at some distance from the
edge of the precipice, notwithstanding the £1.8bn cash call Standard Chartered
made towards the end of last year.

What will happen?

Without wanting to jinx what remains a career with a long way to go (Meddings
is only 49), the only way is up. Meddings is on the right side of the disaster.
As long as Standard continues to ride the storm ­ and it should expect some
downside in Asia ­ he’ll be able to name his own job and his own price. How many
bank executives can say that right now?

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