Nick Leeson, the infamous rogue trader whose unchecked risk-taking caused the collapse of Barings Bank twenty years ago, has set up a consultancy to help firms avoid a similar fate to that suffered by his former employers at the UK's oldest merchant bank.
Leeson has teamed up with operational risk consultant Mike Finlay to set up the new venture, Risk Team, which will focus on raising risk awareness around human behaviour, culture, conduct and corporate governance issues.
Leeson says that recent corporate scandals at Volkswagen and the TalkTalk hacking breach shows that organisations still have a lot to learn in establishing strong corporate governance and cultural sensitivity to risky business strategies.
"Barings was described as a wake-up call that nobody would ever forget, yet a brief look at the last two decades clearly shows the opposite effect," says Leeson. "It is highly apparent that the difficult questions are still not being asked. This is where we see Risk Team addressing that imbalance.”
He says the unit will act as an education, advisory and investigation firm, with specialities in operational risk management, internal and regulatory compliance, mismanagement, unauthorised activity and forensic investigation.
Since leaving prison in 1999, Leeson has become a familiar figure on the after-dinner speaking circuit where he advises companies about risk and corporate responsibility.
Finlay, a former banker and member of the Institute of Operational Risk, sees Leeson's involvement in the venture as guaranteeing a foot in the door.
"Much of the battle is raising awareness," he says. "Nick’s name does that immediately and allows us to focus on the intricacies of culture, governance and control as quickly as possible.”