Arise Sir António! Queen knights Portuguese banking boss
Portuguese banker António Horta-Osório has received a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours list for steering Lloyd’s Banking Group back to profit and private ownership after the financial crisis.
António Horta-Osório stood down as the CEO of Lloyds Banking Group in April to take up a post as chairman of troubled Swiss bank Credit Suisse where he is expected to clean up the bank’s reputation after a number of scandals.
He was given the honour of Knight of the Order of the British Empire not just because of his work in the financial services sector, but also his voluntary services to mental healthcare and culture. During his 10-year tenure at the bank Horta-Osório admitted to suffering stress-related mental health issues which forced him to take time out.
Normally, a non-British citizen cannot be called ‘Sir’ but instead receives an honorary knighthood and can add the suffix KBE to his name. However, in this case, Horta Osório has had dual citizenship since 2014.
Horta-Osório in response to the award said, “I am very honoured to receive such a prestigious accolade. I have spent more than half of my career in the UK and it has been a great honour to lead Lloyd’s Banking Group for a decade.”
“While this is a personal appreciation, I believe it reflects the efforts of the many thousands of colleagues at Lloyd’s Banking Group who have worked tirelessly in their service to British customers and taxpayers throughout my time here,” he added in a statement.
The former Bank of England governor Lord Mervyn King had praised Sir António Horta-Osório for bringing Lloyds bank back from the financial brink after it had to be effectively nationalised during the financial crisis.
It was against the backdrop of the financial crisis and a string of scandals involving the Lloyds that António Horta-Osório came in to clean up the mess, restructure the bank and restore it to financial solvency in preparation for sale rom 2011.
Under his leadership, the bank’s financial performance was turned around. It returned to profitability, slimming down to focus on domestic lending and to meet tougher regulatory requirements on the amount of capital it holds.
Lloyds started down the road to full private ownership, with the Government reducing its stake in September 2013 and March 2014 respectively. In 2014, Horta-Osório saw his pay increase more than 50 percent to £11.5 million as Lloyds returned to profit. Lloyds completed its return to private ownership in May 2017 with around £900 million above the original stake being repaid to the government.
In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, Horta-Osório sought to allay fears the bank would shift operations abroad as other UK banks had announced. He told Forbes, “We have no plans to move jobs to Luxembourg, or anywhere else in Europe, as a result of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union. But the nature of our business, and our UK focus, means the direct impact on our business is less compared to our peers”.
In 2017, Lloyds’ statutory profit increased by 24% to £5.3Bn in the year and it paid out the largest dividend in its history (£2.3Bn) including a share buyback of £1Bn. It also completed the acquisition of MBNA (1 June) and announced the acquisition of Zurich’s UK workplace pensions and savings business (12 October).
In July 2020 Horta-Osório announced that he would stand down as chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group by summer 2021. Charlie Nunn, formerly of HSBC, was named as his successor. Horta-Osório left at the end of April 2021.
In December 2020, Credit Suisse announced that, from April 2021, Horta-Osório would succeed Urs Rohner as its chairman. Rohner described himself as “extremely happy” with the appointment. Horta-Osório is the first non-Swiss chairman in the bank’s history. It was reported that he would move to Switzerland to take up the role, which he began by purchasing Credit Suisse stock worth $1.2 million as a sign of confidence in the group.