Former chief risk officer Gordon Dickson turned a horrible financial loss and embarrassing exit from the finance world into a hilarious story.The man lost $1.52 million and then turned around to change his identity to “Pete the Pirate” aka “Mr. Giggles.“
60 two-year old Dickson had worked for HBOS (referred to as the Bank of Scotland previous to a merger with Halifax Building Society) for his whole life, since leaving school in 1965. At the end of his career he was the chief risk officer.
He then retired with $1.52 million in bank shares, all of which he subsequently lost after the 2008 collapse of HBOS.
Now, completely changed after the sudden loss, he says he’s “ashamed to be known as a banker, I am much happier being known as ‘Pete the Pirate.'”
He says that during the crisis, he turned a blind eye to the balance sheet troubles of HBOS, an embarassing mistake for a former CRO.
But finally, during a trip to the Canary Islands, he realised the shares he had accumulated over four decades of employment under the bank founded in 1695 were worthless:
“I happened to look over at this person who had a newspaper opened up that said ‘HBOS collapsed,'” Dickson said. “I couldn’t even wait to buy a newspaper. I went over to this guy and said ‘Excuse me, can I have this paper for a minute?’ And that’s when it became apparent.”
The former finance guru had to crawl out of his early retirement and do something.
So he became a pirate.
He now charges 200 pounds per event and sometimes slips into his pirate persona for all seven days of the week. He loves it:
“My passion is to use this skill to make your child’s party their best ever experience and save you time and money.”
Not that he doesn’t still talk about the state of the economy.
“The banks need to rebuild the trust. It is like virginity. Once it has gone, that’s it forever,” he says.
But he’s most serious about being a pirate. He’s even morphed David Cameron into his financial nemesis because of Cameron’s “Popular Capitalism.”
Cameron, pushing forward with plans to issue a discount sale of bank shares from state-owned institutions like RBS and Lloyds to the public, has been the media cheerleader for banks’ selling shares to the mass public.
Under the auspices of this sale (which specifically encourages younger UK residents and those with modest incomes to purchase the stocks), the Parliament would be able to partially shed its 83% stake in RBS and 41% holding in Lloyds — both hit hard in the crisis and showing signs of uncertain recovery (RBS says it projects a return to profit in 2011).
Cameron thinks it’s a great idea, relating it to past trends that were positive for the economy:
“In America in the 1950s, there was a sense that everyone could have a slice of the pie. In the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher led an ownership revolution that gave millions a new stake in our economy. That was truly popular capitalism and we’ve never needed it more than we do today.”
“Banks need to demonstrate their goodness before it’s safe to buy again,” he said, adding that “Somewhere along the way banks have lost their focus.”