Governor of Bank of England will take extended holiday after stepping down this month
Sir Mervyn King is to become one of the growing number of high-profile business and finance figures to take a so-called “grey gap year” when he steps down as governor of the Bank of England at the end of this month.
The departing central banker, who turned 65 in March, told the Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young on Sunday: “I’m planning a gap year, or a gap six months or so as a break. It will be a holiday.”
King outlined his plans for the career break: “I have promised my wife that, when I leave the bank, I’ll take dancing lessons.” The spell could also give the noted cricket fan the luxury of tuning into two Ashes series.
King’s decision to take a break comes after senior heads of several blue-chip companies recently left their high-powered roles to pursue wider interests. They have included the 54-year-old Peter Voser announcing his retirement as chief executive at Royal Dutch Shell in pursuit of a “lifestyle change”; the Diageo boss Paul Walsh, 57, leaving the £49bn drinks multinational; and Johann Rupert, 62, the billionaire chairman of the Cartier watches and Montblanc fountain pens group Richemont, who is taking time off to read books and perhaps travel to Antarctica.
While King, who hands over to the new governor Mark Carney next month, has reached the former default retirement age, he is widely expected to eventually accept new roles after leaving the bank.
The governor, who was recently given a score of seven out of 10 by economists polled on his performance during his 10 years at the helm of the bank, told Young how he had previously taken a gap year. This was in 1966 when he worked as a supply teacher in Wolverhampton – which he considered “the most exhausting job” he had ever done.
“I would come back at five o’clock in the afternoon and I’d have to lie down even at the age of 18 and sleep for an hour to recover from the exertions of teaching because the children were so lively and enthusiastic,” he recalled.
“I started a cricket team there, but the sheer energy you had to put in managing the classroom, helping the children in the playground or at lunchtime, it was emotionally and physically draining.”
His efforts to talk with students now, however, have taught King a lesson in how the financial crisis has discouraged a generation from working in banking because they believe it causes “enormous damage to the rest of society”.
He told Young: “I go to schools and speak to sixth-formers and others and I found before the crisis that a disturbingly high proportion of them, instead of wanting to become engineers or scientists or musicians, wanted to go and work in the City. Why? Because they wanted to make a lot of money. Now I think they don’t really want to go and earn money if it’s being earned in a way that creates enormous damage to the rest of society and I think that’s a very healthy thing.”
He also talked about his long-delayed marriage to Barbara, whom he had met at college – revealing that having lost touch for 30 years after she returned to Finland, she had phoned him out of the blue. “The moral of this story,” he said, “is never change your telephone number.”
The governor said he now believes the economy is healing – albeit slowly. “I do think you can see signs now of a recovery,” he said. “The economy is growing – not as fast as we’d like it to grow – but nobody can foretell the future.”
King will chair his final meeting of the Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) this week, although no action is expected on either interest rates or the further economic stimulus that has been consistently advocated by King. He has been out-voted on increasing the level of quantitative easing (QE) – a process whereby the bank creates money to buy financial assets from commercial banks and other institutions – at the previous four MPC meetings.
However, economists widely expect a further batch of QE to arrive later this year once Carney has arrived.
King’s music choices
Mambo No 5 – Lou Bega
Symphony No 40 – Mozart
7th Symphony – Beethoven
Highway 61 – Bob Dylan
Rotterdam 82 – Doug O’Brien
I Remember the Wonderful Moment – Boris Gmyrya
London Concerto – Hugh Watkins, played by London Symphony Orchestra
My Ship from Lady in the Dark, performed by Anne-Sofie von Otter