Stephen Hester at Manchester Business School 25/4/2012

25 Apr
Stephen Hester lecture

Moderating the Q&A at the Stephen Hester lecture

Introducing Stephen Hester at Manchester Business School pics by James Maddox

It’s a privilege to introduce and converse with a big hitter. And in the context of the UK economy, there is no bigger story than Stephen Hester  coming to town. The chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, came to Manchester and delivered the first of the Vital Topics lectures in the 2012 programme at Manchester Business School.

You can read the story around his speech here from the Guardian, which was actually a preview inteview. And here is the coverage in Insider this morning.

My job was twofold, to introduce him to the 280 or so guests and then to chair the Q&A session after his 35 minute talk. The lecture had already been moved to a larger theatre as the event was a complete sell out. Expectation was therefore high. So too was a slight fear that the session would be dominated by mudslinging over his bonus.

In my introduction I mentioned that all of us can remember the fear, the uncertainty and the dread of October 2008. None of us knew what lay ahead. None of us however, took the call that he did and stepped up to the plate to lead the long hard recovery of RBS, which we must remember is an important part of the North West economy as banker to 51 per cent of companies in the region. I did so as it was a way of creating empathy that he is so much more than this banking bloke who gets a rotten press. He is in the midst of a turnaround. Fortunately, he chose to build on that in his lecture, and he also mentioned how important RBS is. He also attacked the “commentariat” who give him and his colleagues little credit and continually snipe.

For the Q&A I had a stack of my own questions based on research of his 5 year plan, what he’s been doing and the perception of RBS in UK businesses. I also had about a dozen questions supplied by the audience in advance. I was keen to introduce subjects he’d usefully comment on  – like bonuses in the financial sector, and political influence – but also to respect the businesses in the audience and address their points of concern. The first question was therefore one I chose from a corporate financier about credit policy. I know, it sounds boring, but it set a tone about where I wanted the conversation. I then threw it open and got some good questions, which he answered very clearly. We got through about 5 questions, and with an eye on the clock I asked one of my own questions directly to him. This was about the ability of RBS to support British business overseas as RBS sells off non-domestic businesses. We finished on time as I handed over to Professor Michael Luger to propose the vote of thanks and to present him with a gift.

We then retired to a local restaurant for a private dinner where the conversation really spiced up. But that would be telling.

The pics of the event are also on a Picasa site here by photographer James Maddox.


2 Responses to “Stephen Hester at Manchester Business School 25/4/2012”

  1. malcolmmcclean April 26, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    I Have in my files a letter from Stephen Hester to my MP George Osborne, in which he tried to justify charging my business more than 600% APR in arrangement fees and interest for a short term extension to our overdraft. He would quite happily have put us out of business after more than 20 unblemished years as a business customer. Needless to say I am not a customer anymore.
    I hope you gave him a suitable gift.

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