What do you do when you lose a bank £862 million through illegal and fraudulent trading? Well, you become a debt counsellor, of course.
That is what Nick Leeson, arguably one of the most famous rogue traders in recent history, does now.
“The world of banking is always good to me, because it throws out a bone from time to time by shooting itself in the foot,” said Leeson to the Guardian newspaper.
Leeson’s interview marks the 20th anniversary since he caused the collapse of Barings Bank. He fled Singapore with his then-wife Lisa and after he disastrously “lost a lot of money” across a flood of rogue trades. After causing an international manhunt, the bank eventually collapsed three days later as it struggled to recapitalise at such short notice, after Leeson concealed the losses from 1992 to 1995.
However, judging by his interview in the newspaper, he seems more embarrassed than contrite for his hand in the felling of one of the world’s most old and prestigious lenders in the world.
At the time, the Queen was rumoured to have invested £40 million into Barings.
“You go through them all. But the lasting one for me is embarrassment,” said Leeson. “Because it’s the complete opposite of what I wanted. I’d want to be remembered for my successes rather than my failures, but nothing that I do is probably ever going to change that.”
He even downplayed his notoriety from other, now, infamous rogue traders.
“[Even among the ranks of rogue traders], I’m way down there now,” he added, while referring to UBS’ Kweku Adoboli who lost UBS £1.5 billion in 2011 and Societe Generale’s Jerome Kerviel who lost £3.7 billion in total.
So what is he up to now?
He now lives with his second wife Leona, in her home town of Galway, Ireland, after his first wife divorced him while he was in jail.
He served four and a half years in a Singapore prison for his rogue trading activities. However, he was released early when he contracted bowel cancer.
While the court made him personally liable for £100 million after he was convicted, liquidators stopped chasing him in 2005.
He now earns around £80,000 per year as a debt counsellor and through raking in around thousands of pounds a time for after dinner speeches and conference talks.
“Look, I live comfortably, I don’t try to hide from that. I’m very well paid for the talks that I do.” When pressed, however, he admits that for someone who had “a huge need for success”, it’s not quite fulfilling, “because I still feel that I have more to offer”.
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