Come the revolution...

Rod Sweet meets a banker taking his revenge

Rod Sweet meets a banker taking his revenge

There may be something personal about the glee Mark Tennant feels at the prospect of the Internet revolution.

The head of European global funds services at Chase Manhattan, Tennant was almost rubbing his hands as he talked about how hard and how fast the Web will hit established ways of doing business.

Maybe it's because financial services are natural beneficiaries of the power shake-up he foresees the Web causing.

Why? The Web carries information. Fundamentally, that's the stuff financial services trade. The Web doesn't carry books or wine, so it'll never truly shift the parameters of book and wine selling. But information? That's another story.

Tennant argues that just as the railroad let 19th century US manufacturers do business anywhere in the country, the Web allows 21st century financial services trade anywhere in the world.

But to cash in on the power shift, the financial services industry must be quicker in changing old practices. The key, said Tennant, was the removal of fear all the way up the corporate ladder, otherwise innovation would never be unleashed.

So how do you remove fear? Reward mistakes, answered Tennant, reciting the best kind of speech at bonus-time: "You lost us money, but you did what you thought was right at the time... here's a top-rate bonus."

Back to the power shake-up. First of all, why? Tennant believes financial services will evolve so quickly, it'll be very difficult for regulators in individual countries to keep up.

"How do you control what's up there?" he said, waving his hand out of the plate glass window overlooking the City to take in cyberspace. And because financial services are such a critical part of controlling the economy, politicians will be "hugely less powerful".

The power of politicians is something Tennant has long meditated on. And he's no stranger to fighting for it. At the beginning of his banking career he took time out to manage the campaign of a would-be MP. Much later, in the 1992 general election, he stood, unsuccessfully, for Dunfermline East against Gordon Brown, now Chancellor of the Exchequer.

All that's behind him now. In a few years, he'll retire to his dairy farm in Scotland.

Or is it behind him, the wrangling for power? After all, he did lose heavily in 1992, getting just 6,000 votes to Brown's 23,000.

But Tennant's point is that money is what makes the world go round.

"The ability of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to control the economy is going to be considerably less in the next 20 years," he said. He may have lost Dunfermline East but, as a banker in 21st century geopolitics, he's gained the world.

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