My new book on the financial crisis was published in autumn 2013 by Simon and Schuster. Making It Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the men who blew up the British economy is an explosive, controversial account of the collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland and the UK’s economic meltdown.
When RBS had to be bailed out by the taxpayer in the financial crisis of October 2008 it played a leading role in tipping the country into its deepest economic downturn in seven decades. The economy shrank, bank lending froze, hundreds of thousands of people lost their jobs, living standards are still falling and Britons will be paying higher taxes for decades to cover the cost of the clean-up. In the boom years the RBS advertising slogan was Make It Happen. The bank’s management had certainly helped make it happen.
How on earth had a small Scottish bank grown so quickly to become a global financial giant that could do such immense damage when it collapsed? By the time the crisis hit it was the biggest bank in the world, with a balance sheet in excess of £1.9 trillion, a sum bigger by some margin than UK GDP.
At the centre of the story is Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive known as “Fred the Shred” who terrorised some of his staff and beguiled others. Not a banker by training, he nonetheless was given control of RBS and set about trying to make it one of the biggest brands in the world. It was said confidently that computerisation and new banking products had made the world safer. Only they hadn’t…
But it also charts the epic mistakes made by international policymakers and politicians who claimed to have ushered in a new era, or the “end of boom and bust”.
Based on more than 100 interviews, and with access to diaries and papers kept by those at the heart of the meltdown, this is the definitive account of the RBS disaster, a disaster which still casts such a shadow over our economy. In Making It Happen, senior executives, board members, Treasury insiders and regulators reveal how the bank’s mania for expansion led it to take enormous risks its leaders didn’t understand.
From the birth of the Royal Bank in 18th century Scotland, via the manic expansion under Fred Goodwin in the middle of a mad boom and subsequent epoch-defining collapse, to the fraught attempts to rebuild RBS under new leadership, Making It Happen is the full, extraordinary story.
Reviews for Making It Happen:
John Kampfner in The Observer: “Tells it brilliantly… Of all the books about the financial crisis I have not read a more compelling one. Do not read this book if you have high blood pressure.”
The Times: “First-class.”
Wall Street Journal: “A gripping account.”
Reuters: “Fast-paced and entertaining.”
Fraser Nelson: “Reads like a thriller… the best book on the crash to have come out on this side of the Atlantic.”
Robert Peston: “Compelling.”
Daily Mail book of the week: “Superb… It explains what happened with elegance and a strong sense of fair play. I’d spent much of the past few years in a fog of incomprehension, and that fog has now lifted.”