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Global finance ‘giant’ Win Bischoff dies aged 81

REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett
FILE PHOTO: Lloyds Banking group chairman, Win Bischoff, arrives for the British Bankers' Association annual international banking conference in London, on October 17, 2012

Win Bischoff, who was among the most influential and celebrated financiers of his generation, has died at the age of 81, prompting tributes from the industry he helped shape.

The Anglo-German banker worked for some of the world’s biggest banks and finance firms in a six decade career that spanned boom and bust and criss-crossed continents.

Bischoff died on Tuesday of natural causes, a close relative, who asked not to be named, told Reuters.

A former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, Citigroup and more recently JP Morgan Securities, Bischoff had also been CEO of Schroders.

Robert Swannell, former chairman of Marks & Spencer, who worked with Bischoff for 33 years at Schroders and later Citi, said he would profoundly mourn his friend and colleague.

“Win was the most inspiring leader it’s possible to imagine; competitive and charming in equal measure,” Swannell said, adding that Bischoff was a keen and always competitive golfer, who enjoyed music, wine and holidaying in Italy.

“Every day was a new adventure for him,” Swannell added.

Bischoff was known as one of the industry’s most astute leaders, with a talent for overhauling banks battered by the 2007 US subprime crisis and ensuing credit crunch.

Lloyds’ chairman Robin Budenberg and Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan, also led tributes to Bischoff, who was awarded a knighthood in 2000 for services to banking.

“Sir Win was a giant of our industry,” Dimon said.

“A pivotal and calming leader through the financial crisis – his wisdom has left an indelible influence on our management teams. It is a true honour to have worked with him so closely,” Dimon added in a statement.

Bischoff was “an exemplary figure in financial services” Budenberg said in a statement.

Credibility and trust

Winfried Franz Wilhelm Bischoff was born in the German town of Aachen in May 1941, later moving with his family to South Africa where he was educated.

Bischoff’s father encouraged him to pursue a career in finance after bemoaning the skillsets of the bankers he had encountered while building his own business, according to an interview published by Board Intelligence in February 2018.

Chase Manhattan Bank hired a young, ambitious Bischoff in 1962. He joined Schroders later that decade, climbing the ranks to become CEO in 1984, before eventually moving to Citi when it bought the investment banking business in 2000.

The deal was hailed as a huge success for Bischoff’s leadership team, having started with a business worth just a fraction of the £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) price Citi later paid.

Bischoff won plaudits across Wall Street and helped steer Citi through the early days of the US subprime mortgage crisis, acting as interim chief executive for a month at the end of 2007, before serving as chair until January 2009.

James Bardrick, Citi country officer for the UK, said Bischoff should be remembered for his ethical integrity and for championing the careers of women and people who came from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Noted for his skills as a turnaround expert, Bischoff joined British bank Lloyds as chair in September 2009.

Britain’s biggest mortgage lender was then grappling with the fallout from its multi-billion pound government bailout in 2008 and faced a massive task to restructure, recapitalise and integrate its takeover of ailing rival HBOS.

“You get the credibility and trust back from shareholders and customers by running a sound, good bank that doesn’t have to have recourse to outside help,” he told Reuters at the time.

Bischoff shepherded Lloyds back to profits and installed former CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio, before stepping down in 2014.

Soon afterwards he became chair of auditing watchdog the Financial Reporting Council, which attracted criticism for soft supervision of a sector that is facing major reforms today.

He returned to JP Morgan as chairman of JP Morgan Securities the same year. He also held non-executive roles at UK property firm Land Securities and drugmaker Eli Lilly.

“He will be remembered fondly by all those who worked with him,” Elizabeth Corley, chair of Schroders, said of Bischoff, who is survived by his two sons.