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Lloyds leadership: Don’t panic!

READING yesterday about the travails affecting the board at Lloyds Bank one felt like invoking Dads Army’s Corporal Jones and his famous exhortation to his commanding officer: “Don’t panic Mr Manwaring!”

The coverage of CEO Antonion Horta-Osorio’s unexpected decision to take leave of absence, apparently for over work and exhaustion, and his replacement at the helm by finance director Tim Tookey, could well have given the impression that the roof had fallen in on Britain’s biggest High Street bank.

Has it? I’m no banking expert (I know, that’s my cue to shut up) but I suspect the leadership issue is not nearly as grave as some commentators would have us believe.

Brought into the bank and groomed as its next group FD, Tookey is experienced and viewed as a decent pair of hands. He’s had five years to get to know the bank, been with it through some pretty tough times and, by all accounts, has some fairly robust ideas about the direction it should be taking.

The question is not really whether he is a worthy leader. The issue is really that he is a leader that finds himself in quite an unworthy position. Due to leave early next year Tookey finds himself temporarily heading a bank that is in the midst of strategic change.

Possibly even overseeing change that he doesn’t entirely think is good for the bank. Professional that he is, he will have to see it through. Unless it becomes clear that Horta-Osorio will not return.

At the moment the bank is adamant that he will, but even this morning the Financial Times saw fit to run a speculative piece on who might replace him if he doesn’t. Among those? Well, Tookey of course, plus previous finance director Helen Weir and Standard Chartered’s FD Richard Meddings and a clutch of investment bank.

Among the big FTSE companies that a growing sense that the FD’s position is now a vital route to the CEO’s post. Events at Lloyds and recent speculation seem to be fulfilling the prophecy.

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