‘Do you still hate bankers?’ asked an old friend whom I hadn’t seen for years, having himself made a good career in overseas banking. Not at all, I said, and I never did. It’s been my mission to shame bad ones, but there are many I have liked and admired. Among those was Julian Wathen, a Barclays overseas veteran who has died aged 93, and whose story illuminates one key fact: at least today’s bankers don’t get shot at.
As manager of the Limassol branch in Cyprus in 1956, Wathen survived being shot through the neck by an Eoka gunman who, the Times reported, ‘walked into his office, fired, and then decamped without interference from anyone’. Wathen’s successor Joseph Brander was shot dead on the steps of the same branch two years later. Then there’s Justin Urquhart Stewart — still very much with us as a market commentator for Seven Investment Management — who as a Barclays cadet in Uganda in the 1970s spent months in hospital after being machine-gunned in his car at a roadblock. Today’s lot, merely cursed by customers and hounded by columnists, have it easy.
This is an extract from Martin Vander Weyer’s ‘Any Other Business’, which appears in this week’s Spectator