OTTAWA Nov 26 Mark Carney, the surprise
outsider choice to head the Bank of England is an overachiever
with several big financial roles already notched into his belt,
and is also a fan of rock band AC-DC whose lyrics can seem to
mirror his life.
"Coming on like a hurricane" and "take no prisoners," the
words of AC-DC's song "Hells Bells" pretty much sum Carney up as
he prepares to leave the Bank of Canada and take on the job of
Governor of the Bank of England from July 1 2013.
Aged just 47, the marathon runner and former investment
banker will keep his position as head of the Financial Stability
Board, the global body tasked with reforming a still creaking
world financial system, after he moves to London.
"I'm not without ties to the United Kingdom," Carney told an
Ottawa news conference minutes after the announcement. "My wife
is a British and Canadian national, my children are both. I
lived there for a decade...
"Obviously I think that I can play a constructive role as
the next governor in relaunching this institution with its new
responsibilities, contributing to price stability, to financial
stability and to ensuring that the rebalancing of the UK economy
-- which is underway -- is seen through over the course of the
next five years."
The still-athletic Carney -- a sub-four-hour marathon runner
-- was once described as "un-Canadian" by one Ottawa official
because of his sometimes confrontational style.
Carney worked for Goldman Sachs as an investment banker for
13 years in London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto before moving to
the Canadian finance ministry and then, at the age of 43, to the
top job at the Bank of Canada.
He heads a well-respected central bank that helped make
Canada's recession one of the weakest in the rich country group.
No Canadian bank needed government help during the world
financial crisis of 2008.
At the same time, Carney had to fight to prove his loyalties
lie with ordinary citizens, not bankers. He clashed memorably
with JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Jamie Dimon in
Washington in September 2011 as the banker argued against new
regulations for the financial sector.
In Reuters interviews, people who interacted with Carney
during his public service career stressed two traits that will
help him: he is a fighter who does not back down and he speaks
the bankers' language.
"I think he believes he has a halo over him. He's pretty ...
confident, for lack of a better word," said a Canadian academic
who has met Carney at meetings and seminars.
Carney took over at the Financial Stability Board (FSB) at a
time when bankers were pushing back against tougher capital
requirements designed to strengthen financial institutions so
taxpayers will not have to rescue them in a future crisis.
The FSB brings together G20 central bankers, finance
ministers and regulators to craft and coordinate financial
regulation in what has so far been a pretty unglamorous job.
As head of the Bank of Canada, Carney has made it clear that
despite his Goldman Sachs background, or perhaps because of it,
he believes banks have acted in questionable ways and he is
ready to confront them.
Of all his speeches, the ones to banker audiences on
financial reform have been the most sharply worded.
A few months after becoming governor in February 2008,
Carney earned the wrath of Canadian bank CEOs by suggesting they
were hoarding cash and not lending enough to businesses, a
message he has repeated on several occasions.
"He's not just respected and admired but he's well liked as
an individual... In these roles part of your responsibility is
to build consensus and I think Mark brings a real personal
strength to that requirement," Gordon Nixon, the chief executive
of Canada's biggest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, told Reuters
a year ago.
But Carney's investment banker hustle and dominant
personality have not gone over so well with some at the Bank of
Canada, creating friction and bitterness.
Carney completely overhauled the senior ranks of the bank
after he took the job, replacing four of five deputy governors
who decide interest rates with him. On paper, decisions are made
by consensus but privately, officials have reportedly joked that
they always "agree" with their boss.
Carney does not suffer fools gladly and finds it hard to
hide his annoyance if he dislikes a question. He has a
reputation for losing his temper with bank staff, and has been
known to yell at employees in front of others for minor missteps
in outbursts that may include the "f" word.
Paul Masson, a University of Toronto economist who was
special advisor at the bank as Carney took over observed that
Carney was "less lenient" with long-winded staff meetings.
Carney is focused and informed, so "doesn't need to be told
things several times," Masson said.
His communication skills proved less than ideal when in June
2008 a surprise freeze on interest rates exposed a rare
disconnect with a market that had unanimously expected a rate
cut. Bank economists and traders were perplexed by the sudden
reticence to hint at intentions and put it down to Carney's
inexperience in central banking.
His personal life, by comparison, appears simple. He is
married with four young daughters and rushes home from
international meetings to see the girls before bedtime or attend
their soccer matches.