As the saying goes, “Don’t tar everyone with the same brush” — and Lloyds chairman Sir Victor Blank applied the phrase to retail bankers’ critics this week when addressing a British ORT business breakfast. Most likely, the audience took careful note.
Sir Victor, who has come under fire from shareholders following the takeover of HBOS, captivated guests as he spoke candidly and with dignity about the controversial merger, which he insisted was “a purely commercial, not political, move”. He even managed to get a few laughs: “Bankers are not flavour of the month so it’s nice to get a free breakfast and be with people who are happy to be seen with me.” On a more serious note, he admitted his main concern was how to create value for shareholders, something he frets over at night and first thing in the morning. “I believe the merger will do that in due course. I believe we will recover.” While many may take some convincing, one has to admire Sir Victor, typically understated, for his openess. He obviously hadn’t been taking speech-writing lessons from colleague Eric Daniels, the chief executive of Lloyds, who recently spoke at a Jewish Care business breakfast but refused to talk about the merger.