Rates row pushes BoE top-job candidate into the limelight

Mon Jul 9, 2012 4:01am EDT
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By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) - Bank of England deputy governor Paul Tucker has spent his entire career at the central bank, almost all of it liaising with financial markets - but now the rate-fixing scandal engulfing British banks risks thwarting his ambition to get the top job.

Beneath a slightly rumpled exterior that led one columnist to describe him as a "cerebral Winnie the Pooh", there is a confident, almost patrician manner twinned with a grasp of the markets that has won him many fans around the City of London.

However popularity with the City may prove a hindrance, not a help, as the ambitious 54-year-old tries to succeed BoE Governor Mervyn King, who retires next year against a backdrop of public contempt for much of Britain's financial sector.

Later on Monday he will face a critical hearing when he appears before legislators to explain a 2008 conversation with former Barclays chief executive Bob Diamond that critics say raise questions about his judgment.

Barclays received a record fine last week for submitting artificially low estimates of its borrowing costs - but in a memo that emerged last week, Diamond said Tucker had told him senior officials thought Barclays' estimates were too high.

Tucker is a man who has stayed out of the limelight, and has spent much of his time at the BoE in King's shadow - to the extent that Labor finance minister Alistair Darling chided King in 2008 for giving Tucker too little responsibility.

The ultimate central bank insider is little known to the wider public, gives few media interviews and largely confines his appearances to dense regulatory speeches or mandatory news conferences and hearings where King has centre stage.

The closest he previously came to scandal was in 2003 when tabloid newspapers reported a dispute with a potential buyer of his high-end apartment in a former Victorian school building, a couple of miles from the BoE in a gentrifying area of London.   Continued...

Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Paul Tucker, attends the Financial Reform Conference co-hosted by the South Korean government and the Financial Stability Board (FSB), in Seoul September 3, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won