|11 September, 2019

UK government door still revolves at Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs on Tuesday confirmed that it would hire Olly Robbins, Britain’s former chief Brexit negotiator, to advise UK corporate clients

Olly Robbins, senior civil servant and Europe adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, arrives at the Cabinet Office, in London, Britain January 28, 2019.

Olly Robbins, senior civil servant and Europe adviser to Prime Minister Theresa May, arrives at the Cabinet Office, in London, Britain January 28, 2019.

Reuters/Peter Nicholls

LONDON - Britain’s government may be a study in political dysfunction, but it hasn’t dimmed prospects for civil servants moving into the private sector. Goldman Sachs on Tuesday confirmed that it would hire Olly Robbins, Britain’s former chief Brexit negotiator, to advise UK corporate clients.

A career civil servant who served in Britain’s Treasury and Cabinet Office – two institutions at the heart of running the country – Robbins is the latest in a string of UK public officials who have moved seamlessly from public service to the private sector, and back again.

The 44-year-old may have less scope than others for helping clients navigate the corridors of power, however. To start with, he’s far from popular with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s team, who viewed him as being too pro-European Union when spearheading Brexit negotiations. Second, the British state currently offers few opportunities for lucrative mandates to privatise state assets. If Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn takes charge, the government will be buying them back.

Still, Robbins’ knowledge of Brussels and European capitals should come in handy when advising Goldman’s UK corporate clients on how best to navigate the political turmoil. His contacts will augment those of José Manuel Barroso, a former president of the European Commission who was appointed non-executive chairman of Goldman’s international arm in 2016.

Moreover, a stint in the City of London doesn’t preclude a return to public service. The late Jeremy Heywood joined Morgan Stanley in 2003 as co-head of UK investment banking, before returning to government under Prime Minister Gordon Brown. John Kingman, who oversaw the government’s nationalisation of failed UK lender Northern Rock during the financial crisis, moved to Rothschild in 2010 before returning to the Treasury two years later. He is now chairman of insurer Legal & General.

The latest spin of Goldman’s revolving door will only reinforce the view that Britain’s political and financial elites are too chummy. But if Brexit hardliners get their way and the UK crashes out of the EU, Robbins will be relying on his negotiating experience and European contacts to justify his pay package.

CONTEXT NEWS

- Britain’s former chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins will join the UK investment banking division of Goldman Sachs after a sabbatical, the British Cabinet Office said on Sept 9.

- Robbins led former Prime Minister Theresa May's negotiations on a deal with the European Union that would manage the country's departure from the bloc.

- Although the sides succeeded in agreeing a so-called Withdrawal Agreement in November 2018, May failed to garner enough domestic support for it to pass through Britain's parliament.

- Before joining the U.S. investment bank, Robbins will first spend a sabbatical at the University of Oxford, becoming the first holder of a visiting fellowship set up in memory of former Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood.

(Editing by Peter Thal Larsen and Karen Kwok)

© Reuters News 2019

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