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Frederick (Fred) Anderson Goodwin


1958 -

Financier, responsible for the biggest loss in UK banking history. Born in Paisley (Renfrewshire), the son of an electrician, Goodwin was educated at Paisley Grammar School and the University of Glasgow. He joined accountants Touche Ross, rising to become a partner in 1988. He was responsible for guiding Northern Ireland aircraft manufacturer Short Brothers through privatisation (1989) and headed the liquidation of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International following its 1991 collapse due to fraud. In 1987, he had helped the National Australia Bank with its takeover of Clydesdale Bank and worked with them once again during their takeover of the Yorkshire Bank in 1995. The same year, he was appointed Deputy Chief Executive of the Clydesdale Bank and rose to become Chief Executive of National Australia Bank's operations in the UK the following year.

He was appointed Deputy CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in 1998, rising to become its CEO in 2001, and presided over a quadrupling of the RBS's share price and the company growing to become the world's largest in terms of assets. A very hands-on CEO, Goodwin had a reputation for ruthlessly seeking efficiencies in the businesses he ran, gaining him the soubriquet Fred the Shred. He was named Businessman of the Year by Forbes magazine in 2002, European Banker of the Year in 2003 and knighted the following year.

Goodwin made a fatal error in taking over the Dutch bank ABN AMRO which, it became apparent, was badly exposed to the so-called "sub prime" mortgage market in the USA. This brought disaster for RBS, which was forced to reveal £24.1 billion losses, the biggest in UK banking history, and suffer a humiliating government rescue package, which rocked the foundations of the British economy. The failure of RBS brought personal attacks on Goodwin, undoubtedly whipped up by political 'spin' and a press frenzy. These were re-inforced when the details of his substantial leaving package were made known and his home in the Grange in Edinburgh was vandalised. Having become the lightning rod for the banking crisis and the recession it caused in the UK, Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood in 2012, a unique humiliation for someone who has never been accused of a criminal offence. Perhaps were it not for a single error of judgement, Goodwin would have been remembered as one of the more successful bankers of his time, who was once the darling of the city.

He has subsequently joined Edinburgh-based architects RMJM as an international business advisor. Goodwin also served as Chairman of The Prince's Trust (2003-09), a charity which helps young people.


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