Britainís banking mission impossible
2012-09-20 0:00

By Barry Neild |

Job-description messages in the "Mission: Impossible" movies self-destruct in five seconds. In the British banking world, the latest was printed in the employment pages for everyone to see.

The mission, should anyone choose to accept it, is to take control of the Bank of England, manipulate monetary policy to achieve the economic growth necessary to lift the UK out of recessionóand while he or she is at it, root out rogue bankers.

Gadgets will be provided, such as the money printing machine the departing governor, Mervyn King, repeatedly deployed in an effort to thwart deflation. Should the mission fail, all such actions will be disavowed.

That wasnít quite the tone of the central bankís recent advertisement for a new governor ó the first in its 316-year history. But commentators who argue that few can live up to the specifications printed in this weekís Economist magazine say it might as well have been.

There are some perks. The lucky winner will clock frequent flyer miles traveling to international-finance shindigs such as G7 and G20 meetings. There will also be some short-haul trips to touch base with the European Systemic Risk Board in Germany and the Bank of International Settlements in Switzerland.

But thatís not all. Whoever gets the job will become one of Britainís most powerful unelected officials. He or she will decide the economic fate of millions of people, exert influence over a broad range of government policies and be capable of forcibly removing finance industry executives from their jobs.

Indeed, the position is more influential and complicated than ever thanks to financial sector reforms made in the wake of the global economic crisis and several scandals. So much so there are worries that no one ó not even Mervyn King ó is capable of handling it any longer.

ďOnly superhumans need apply,Ē Ed Balls, economic spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, wrote in the Financial Times. ďBecause, as things stand, I fear he or she will face a near-impossible task.Ē


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