Biography

In the mid-1980s, Nick Leeson landed a job as a clerk with royal bank Coutts, followed by a string of positions with other banks, ending up at Barings, where he quickly made an impression and was promoted to the trading floor. Before long, Nick was appointed the manager of a new operation in futures markets on the Singapore Monetary Exchange (SIMEX) and was soon making millions for Barings by betting on the future direction of the Nikkei Index. His bosses back in London, who viewed his large profits with glee, trusted the whiz kid. Leeson and his wife Lisa seemed to have everything: a salary of £50,000 with bonuses of up to £150,000, weekends in exotic places, a smart apartment, frequent parties and to top it all they seemed to be very much in love.

Barings wasn’t aware that it was exposed to any losses because Leeson claimed that he was executing purchase orders on behalf of a client. What the company did not realize, is that it was responsible for the 88888 error account where Leeson hid all of his losses. This account had been set up to cover up a mistake made by an inexperienced team member, which led to a loss of £20,000. Leeson now used this account to cover his own mounting losses.

As the losses grew, Leeson requested extra funds to continue trading, hoping to extricate himself from the mess by more deals. Over three months he bought more than 20,000 futures contracts worth about $180,000 each in a vain attempt to move the market. Some three quarters of the $1.3 billion he lost Barings resulted from these trades. When Barings executives discovered what had happened, they informed the Bank of England that Barings was effectively bust. In his wake Nick Leeson had wiped out the 233 year old Baring investment Bank, who proudly counted HM The Queen as a client. The $1.3 billion dollars of liabilities he had run up was more than the entire capital and reserves of the bank.

Eventually arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, Nick spent a few fraught months trying to escape extradition to Singapore. He failed and in December 1995 a court in Singapore sentenced him to six and a half years in prison. Lisa his wife got a job as an airhostess to be able to visit him regularly. At first, their marriage survived the strain of being apart, but she eventually divorced him. Within months, Leeson was diagnosed as suffering from cancer of the colon. His weight plummeted and most of his hair fell out from chemotherapy.

Finally released in 1999, and despite his return to the UK bringing a realization that the high life had been swept away — he was effectively homeless and without a job — Nick enjoyed a hedonistic first year seeing friends and family but also continuing his cancer treatment. Nick Leeson has proved his resilience and has been able to capitalize on his experiences. He was paid a substantial fee for the newspaper serialization of his book in The Mail. The story was then turned into a film, Rogue Trader, starring Ewan McGregor.

During 2001 he undertook a Psychology degree and Nick now spends his time delivering conference and keynote talks to companies and undertaking after-dinner speaking based on his life experiences. With a psychology degree and a second marriage to Irish beautician Leona Tormay, (with her own children Kersty and Alex) after trying for a baby they were delighted when, in 2004, Leona gave birth to a baby boy.

Nick comments: “I’m of the mindset that cancer must not take you over and control your life. I do believe that the more positive you are, the greater your chance of survival.” His advice to others is never to bottle up stress as he himself did: “You need to talk and express yourself as I now do to Leona. With cancer as with other problems, it’s amazing how adaptable human beings are, and you will be able to cope provided you keep a strong frame of mind.”

In April 2005 Nick was appointed Commercial Manager of Galway United Football Club, rising to the position of General Manager in late November 2005. The same year Nick published his second book Back from the Brink, Coping with Stress, co-written with psychologist Ivan Tyrell. July 2007 saw his appointed as CEO of the football club where he remained in this position until his resignation in February 2011.

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We wanted a different approach to our Compliance training this year, which Nick Leeson provided. His session was highly thought-provoking and Nick painted a stark picture of the devastating effects of failing to take the right approach to risk management and compliance. Challenging, stimulating – and entertaining. Many thanks.
– Sandra Honess, NBC Universal
Nick was thoroughly engaging. We had plenty of positive feedback at our Zone Convention about the session and the lessons that Nick drew from the events that unfolded in the 90s. His message on the critical importance of ethics and compliance was valued by the entire audience.
– Nigel Dickie, The Kraft Heinz Company
Nick Leeson was a brilliant, informative and engaging speaker at our recent conference. He effectively explained the importance of compliance, risk and regulations through his fascinating story. We received great feedback from our audience on both the event and Nick himself, and he was undoubtedly a fantastic addition to our panel.
– Jessica Carney, Equilibrium Asset Management LLP
I lost count of the number of people who have told me how much they enjoyed your speech earlier this week at the Finance Leaders day at IBM Business Connect 2016. Your story is a fascinating one and you make it very easy for your audience to imagine themselves in your shoes: there but for the grace of God goes many an unsuspecting person, I think. Your contribution to the day was even more powerful than I had expected and the audience were engaged in a way that I have rarely seen at similar events.
– Paul Campion, IBM
Our compliance day was extremely well received and having Nick as the external speaker really did add the buzz we wanted to the day. His presentation was great as expected and he covered the areas on our brief perfectly! His style of delivery was informative and humorous and plenty of questions at the end!
– Diageo UK
Nick was exceptional and I will be honest a few from our membership were unsure why we were having him given his past. He blew the crowd away and it was only a shame there had not been more time for questions.
– Fiona Mackay, Director and Member Engagement – ICAS
Nick Leeson spoke very openly and candidly about his experiences which made him very likeable. I watched the delegates when he was speaking and he totally captured everyone’s attention. It was also great for Nick to take questions from the floor – you never quite know what you’re going to get. Really good job!
– RSA Conference Europe
Once again, I wanted to thank Nick Leeson for coming to speak at our Financial Services Away-Day. Speaking to my colleagues afterwards, they all enjoyed his very timely observations about the continued challenges of risk management at many leading financial institutions. Nick Leeson’s talk also fitted in very well with our own internal discussions about how we can best help our clients in these times of economic uncertainty.
– Tim Roberts, Director — McKinsey & Company

Booksby Nick Leeson

Back From The Brink: Coping With Stress

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I’ve been Speaking professionally for 21 years and work with the largest agencies in the world. I’m a Hall of Fame keynote speaker and a New York Times best selling Author. I have can honestly say in full confidence that Seth Dechtman and his team at Keynote Curator is the best agency I have been honored to work with. I’ve witnessed Seth’s client focused relationship skills On multiple occasions. His clients love him and he’s detail oriented and has great communication skillls. But most importantly, I’ve been on the receiving side of his servant, focused leadership style. He treats me like a valued partner and emulates everything a wingman is.
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