Nick Leeson

In the early 1980s, Nick Leeson landed a job as a clerk with royal bank Coutts, followed by a string of jobs with other banks, ending up with Barings, where he quickly made an impression and was promoted to the trading floor.

Before long, he was appointed manager of a new operation in futures markets on the Singapore Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) and was soon making millions for Barings by betting on the future direction of the Nikkei Index. His bosses back in London, who viewed with glee his large profits, trusted the whizzkid. Leeson and his wife Lisa seemed to have everything: a salary of £50,000 with bonuses of up to £150,000, weekends in exotic places, a smart apartment and frequent parties and to top it all they even seemed to be very much in love.

Barings believed that it wasn’t exposed to any losses because Leeson claimed that he was executing purchase orders on behalf of a client. What the company did not realise is that it was responsible for error account 88888 where Leeson hid his losses. This account had been set up to cover up a mistake made by an inexperienced team member, which led to a loss of £20,000. Leeson now used this account to cover his own mounting losses.

As the losses grew, Leeson requested extra funds to continue trading, hoping to extricate himself from the mess by more deals. Over three months he bought more than 20,000 futures contracts worth about $180,000 each in a vain attempt to move the market. Some three quarters of the $1.3 billion he lost Barrings resulted from these trades. When Barings executives discovered what had happened, they informed the Bank of England that Barings was effectively bust. In his wake Nick Leeson had wiped out the 233 year old Baring investment Bank, who proudly counted HM The Queen as a client. The $1.3 billion dollars of liabilities he had run up was more than the entire capital and reserves of the bank.

Nick Leeson bookEventually arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, Nick spent a few fraught months trying to escape extradition to Singapore. He failed and in December 1995 a court in Singapore sentenced him to six and a half years in prison. Lisa his wife got a job as an airhostess to be able to visit him regularly. At first, their marriage survived the strain of being apart, but she eventually divorced him. Within months, Leeson was diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the colon. His weight plummeted and most of his hair fell out from chemotherapy.

Finally released in 1999, and despite his return to the UK bringing a realisation that the high life had been swept away — he was effectively homeless and without a job — Nick enjoyed a fairly hedonistic first year seeing friends and family but also continuing his cancer treatment.

Nick Leeson has proved his resilience and has been able to capitalise on his experiences. He was paid a substantial fee for the newspaper serialisation of his book in The Mail. The story was then turned into a film, Rogue Trader, starring Ewan McGregor. During 2001 he undertook a Psychology degree and Nick now spends much of his time presenting talks to companies on Risk Management and undertaking after-dinner and conference speaking based on his life experiences.

With a psychology degree and a second marriage to Irish beautician Leona Tormay, (with her own children Kersty and Alex) after trying for a baby they were delighted when, in 2004, Leona gave birth to a baby boy. Nick comments; “I’m of the mindset that cancer must not take you over and control your life. I do believe that the more positive you are, the greater your chance of survival.” his advice to others is never to bottle up stress as he himself did: “You need to talk and express yourself as I now do to Leona. With cancer as with other problems, it’s amazing how adaptable human beings are, and you will be able to cope provided you keep a strong frame of mind.”

In April 2005 Nick was appointed Commercial Manager of Galway United Football Club, rising to the position of General Manager in late November 2005. The same year Nick published his second book Back from the Brink, Coping with Stress co-written with psychologist Ivan Tyrell. July 2007 saw his appointed as CEO of the football club where he remained in this position until his resignation in February 2011.

Nick Leeson bookSpeaking

Despite more audacious and larger scale incidents of rogue trading since the collapse of Barings in 1995, Nick Leeson remains the most infamous rogue trader and one of the world’s most sought-after speakers within the financial sector. Curiosity, intrigue and sympathy have been the various reactions to this man’s incredible life story. The collapse of Barings and Nick Leeson’s role in it is one of the most spectacular debacles in modern financial history.

After Dinner Speaking

Nick Leeson’s story has a number of human interest aspects that will astound any audience so his talks are not restricted to the world of suits and power lunches that he used to frequent.

Nick talks frankly about what happened with Barings, the lack of accounting safeguards, his capture and confinement for 9 months in a Frankfurt prison and being sentenced to 6 years by the Singapore court for forgery and cheating.

Conference Speaking and Consultancy

More recent cases such as Allied Irish Bank, the National Australia Bank scandal, Societe Generale and UBS in 2011 simply highlight that loopholes haven’t been closed. Nick Leeson is expertly placed to provide consultancy on risk management, compliance and corporate responsibility.

“Rogue trading is probably a daily occurrence amongst the financial markets. Not enough focus goes on those risk management areas, those compliance areas, those settlement areas, that can ultimately save them money.”

Nick speaks to financial institutions, banks and businesses around the world. He also addresses universities and has spoken at the Oxford Union, Trinity College Dublin, Warwick University and the University College Cork. Conference speeches can be tailored to your specific requirements.

Testimonials

Nick Leeson gave one of the most interesting and thought-provoking talks of the weekend
-Warwick Economics Summit 2011

Nick Leeson was excellent on the day, very frank, open and honest and allowed for a substantial Q&A session which was very well received at the event. We would have no hesitation in recommending Nick.
-Elaine Maher, Irish Brokers Association

We found Mr Leeson to be an excellent speaker, who added to the quality and debate of our event, delivering on all promises especially on his openness and willingness to field all manner of questions from our audience of auditors and fraud investigators.
-Sara Hook, MIS Training

I wanted to thank Nick Leeson for coming to speak at our Financial Services Away-Day. Speaking to my colleagues afterwards, they all enjoyed his very timely observations about the continued challenges of risk management at many leading financial institutions. Nick Leeson’s talk also fitted in very well with our own internal discussions about how we can best help our clients in these times of economic uncertainty.
-Tim Roberts, Director, McKinsey & Company

Thank you for coming to speak to us at our first ever Business Show. The minute you stood on the stage and started to speak, the audience was gripped. The life story which you had to tell us was a remarkable one and contained everything a Hollywood film would have. The connection you made was instant, which is not something easily accomplished.
-Lisa Cameron, SWW Media

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