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Making It Happen: Fred Goodwin, RBS and the men who blew up the British economy. (2013)

“How on earth had a small Scottish bank grown so quickly to become a global financial giant that could do such immense damage when it collapsed?


Iain Martin – editor, The Scotsman (2001-2004), Scotland on Sunday (2004-2006), deputy editor The Sunday Telegraph (2006). Political columnist for The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, the Wall Street Journal and the Daily Mail. He contributes to Financial News and Standpoint magazines and for BBC Radio 4 has presented editions of Beyond Westminster, Week in Westminster and What the Papers Say.

Published by Simon & Schuster UK

When RBS collapsed and had to be bailed out by the taxpayer in the financial crisis of October 2008 it played a leading role in tipping Britain into its deepest economic downturn in seven decades. The economy shrank, bank lending froze, hundreds of thousands lost their jobs, living standards are still falling and Britons will be paying higher taxes for decades to pay the clean-up bill.

How on earth had a small Scottish bank grown so quickly to become a global financial giant that could do such immense damage when it collapsed?

At the centre of the story was Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive known as “Fred the Shred” who terrorised some of his staff and beguiled others. Not a banker by training, he nonetheless was given control of RBS and set about trying to make it one of the biggest brands in the world. It was said confidently that computerisation and new banking products had made the world safer. Only they hadn’t…

Based on more than 80 interviews and with access to diaries and papers kept by those at the heart of the meltdown, this is the definitive account of the RBS disaster, a disaster which still casts such a shadow over our economy. In Making It Happen, senior executives, board members, Treasury insiders and regulators reveal how the bank’s mania for expansion led it to take enormous risks its leaders didn’t understand.

From the birth of the Royal Bank in 18th century Scotland, to the manic expansion under Fred Goodwin in the middle of a mad boom and culminating in the epoch-defining collapse, Making It Happen is the full, extraordinary story.

Access the book here: Making it Happen


“There is a pacy start to the book that immediately immerses the reader in the drama of October 7 2008 – a day that saw Fred Goodwin start the morning with an up­beat investor presentation and end the afternoon with a share price down 40 per cent. Martin’s hour-by-hour account from the perspective of bankers, regulators and politicians ends in the overnight thrashing out of the government’s £50bn bailout package for the banking sector.”  Financial Times

“Although it would be foolish to blame a single organisation, let alone a single man, for the financial crash of 2008, there’s no doubt that the wild arrogance and hubris of Goodwin and his vast, overfed bank came to represent everything that has gone wrong with the City of London.”  Daily Mail 

“Do not read this book if you have high blood pressure. The collapse of RBS; the multibillion-pound bailout (courtesy of you and me), and the smug indifference of the guilty men is one of the parables of the ills of contemporary capitalism. Iain Martin tells it brilliantly, mixing fury-inducing narrative with an acute eye for the broader conclusion. Of all the many tales about the global financial crash, I have not read a more compelling one.” The Guardian

“Fred Goodwin was a corporate ‘psychopath’ who worried about minutiae as his bank lost control, a new book claims.” The Independent


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