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Capital Markets

The accidental Bosnian

Bosnia and Herzegovina's central bank governor is an unlikely Bosnian. He doesn't speak any of the country's three languages. He doesn't particularly identify with any of the three ethnic groups, or hold grudges against the other ones. Even his name, Peter Nicholl, is not typically Balkan. Yet a card-carrying Bosnian he is. As of 2002, Nicholl took Bosnian citizenship, to comply with a law decreeing that the central bank governor had to be a local. It was, he says, "an honour".

And in some ways, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina have come to think of the sprightly, New Zealand-born central bank governor as one of their own. As one banker says: "Peter is not only the most prominent foreigner in BH, he's the most hands-on. He thinks like a local – he doesn't just pass policy. He implements it. He stands by his decisions, and takes responsibility for them."

Nicholl happily admits that before taking on the job of BH central bank governor in November 1997 he had very little experience of Balkan politics. "I think it's an advantage. I try to do things just as if I were in New Zealand." He began his career by working for 22 years at the New Zealand central bank, including five years as deputy governor.

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