Monday, November 26

When the UK Previously Looked to a Canadian to Run the Bank of England

Just a quick historical note on the somewhat stunning news that Mark Carney, the current head of the Bank of Canada (and a Canadian citizen), has been asked and has accepted the job of running the Bank of England.

Graham Towers and Montagu Norman 
I say 'somewhat' because students of history may know that as Montagu Norman's 24 year reign at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street was winding down the then head of the Bank of Canada, Graham Towers (also a Canadian citizen), was considered as a leading candidate to replace Norman.

Norman and Towers worked closely together during World War II to support the price of sterling during the Battle for Britain, and much of the UK's gold (as well as France's) was sent to Canada to protect it in the event of a Nazi amphibious invasion of Britain. However, for reasons possibly lost to posterity Towers was either never offered or accepted the job.

Analogies about how England's national football coach is often  foreigner and how the Carney choice really isn't all that different are of course flooding the media airwaves right now. Perhaps the economic, patriotic, and security considerations that come with heading the national football club and central bank aren't really as far apart as one might think?

An issue which isn't under much doubt is that Mark Carney, like Graham Towers in his day, is simply a very good candidate for the job.

Looking ahead, the one thing that is certain is that Mr. Carney will have very big shoes to fill. Even with the financial crisis and the challenges faced by the City of London over the past several years, there can be little doubt that Sir Mervyn King has proven to be one of the finest central bankers of his age. Sir Mervyn recently gave an excellent lecture at the LSE on inflation targeting, which can be viewed here.

Another point is that the Carney choice further confirms London's status as the most welcoming of the major financial centers to foreigners and capital alike. Take that New York!

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