Welby’s old testament

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Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, knows a thing or two about banking, and isn’t afraid to share his views. He sat on the UK’s Committee for Banking Standards. Last year, he took on the payday lenders and called on the UK authorities to promote regional banks based outside London.

But there was a time when he was a big fan of British banks. That was when he was the treasurer of Enterprise Oil, back in the 1980s.

A trawl through Euromoney’s archives found him pictured in our October 1986 issue (see above). We’d asked him if he thought that Big Bang financial deregulation, which was due the following year, would lead to foreign banks taking big chunks of business from the domestic firms.

Welby believed not. "UK banks will be able to do a better job at advising people on domestic issues, and where relationships are important British banks will continue to do well. I would be surprised if US banks led many domestic mergers and acquisitions."

Welby clearly did not foresee that over the coming years key domestic firms such as Schroders, Morgan Grenfell, SG Warburg and Cazenove would fall into foreign ownership.

Earlier that year, Welby was falling over himself to praise Schroders, the advisers that had helped Enterprise Oil to issue a £50 million Eurobond. In the June 1986 issue, Welby recalls that the timing of the issue was difficult because of market conditions – not least a rapidly falling oil price.

He told Euromoney: "I looked at the screen. Everybody screwed up their courage and I said: ‘Alright, we’ll do it.’"

Over the next few days, market sentiment improved and, according to Welby, "our bonds just disappeared into it".

Sounds like it was an immaculately conceived deal. Or perhaps, even then, Welby had God – as well as Schroders – on his side.