Philip Augar has been commenting on banking and other topical issues since 2000, the year he left Schroders plc in order to write. During his twenty year career in the City, he led NatWest’s global equity and fixed income division and was Group Managing Director at Schroders with responsibility for the securities business.
He is best known for his books on finance. The first,·The Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism, was published in 2001 and·told the story of the collapse of London’s investment banks in the years after Big Bang, London’s financial deregulation of 1986. The book was a best seller but was controversial in drawing attention to an event that had previously been overlooked, and in attributing it to mismanagement as much as to globalisation.·
In 2005 he turned his attention to Wall Street. The Greed Merchants explored the high level of profits and compensation in the closed world of America’s largest investment banks. Augar attributed this to what he called The Edge, an information advantage enjoyed by the banks as a result of a business model that often enabled them to act simultaneously for buyers, sellers and themselves. The Greed Merchants ends by repeating a call first made in Death of Gentlemanly Capitalism to break up the banks.
This theme recurred in Augar’s book about the banking crisis, Chasing Alpha (published in 2009, short listed for the Stearns Boook Prize and renamed Reckless in paperback), . The book focussed on events in the UK and put groupthink at the centre of the story. Overblown faith in finance and the free market affected politicians, regulators and bankers. Banking swept all before it in the years leading up to the crisis, as bankers worked their way into positions of influence in Westminster and Whitehall while critics were marginalised and told that “they just didn’t get it”. Chasing Alpha suggested that the banking industry would survive a period of reflection and reform and emerge with its business model largely intact.
In addition to his five books, Philip Augar has written many articles for the Financial Times and other publications and appears regularly on BBC radio and television. He was a non-executive board member at the Department for Education from 2004-2010 and at the Home Office from 2010-2014, where he was also Chairman of UK Border Agency in the months leading to its break up in 2013. He was a member of the cross-party Future of Banking Commission chaired by David Davis MP in 2010 and the same year advised the Scottish Parliament’s inquiry into the banking crisis. He holds a doctorate in History and is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. He was an independent non-executive at KPMG and was a board member of the retail bank TSB plc.