Profile: Mark Carney, The Former Banker With a Quiet Authority

Mark Carney

Likened in his native Canada to a character from the hit TV show Mad Men, Mark Carney is certainly clipped and groomed like a 1950s Hollywood star.

Sporty – he was a net minder for Harvard's ice hockey team – and dapper, he could be Tony Curtis, though with a little more menace behind the wide smile.

As far as central bankers go, the 47 year old more than stands out from the generally more rotund suits that populate the conference circuit.

Critics say the Harvard and Oxford educated economist wears his doctorate on his sleeve and is less than self-effacing. They speculate that his 13 years at Goldman Sachs, which took him to London, Tokyo, New York and Toronto, inspired his smart dress code and air of authority. Yet he is not brash, preferring to make few public comments and he rarely agrees to interviews. When he did talk about the speculation linking him to the Bank of England job, he consistently ruled himself out. If he does break cover it is to make considered comments that fail to register on the media Richter scale. Goldman Sachs has a way of giving its senior executives this quiet authority.

But he made the headlines in the financial press last year when he came under attack from JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon during a meeting of then G20 Financial Stability Board, set up in the aftermath of the financial crisis to tame the banks. It is the kind of moment that endeared him to the Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King, who is understood to have championed Carney's candidacy, and in turn chancellor George Osborne, who controversially rejected a clutch of home grown talent to favour the Canadian. Dimon attacked Carney in a closed session for backing Basle III – the third global regulatory effort in around two decades – which demands that the world's largest banks carry extra reserves to prevent governments needing to bail them out again. The attack was leaked and Carney's credentials as defender of sound money was sealed.

He could have further clashes inside Threadneedle Street, though. At a conference to discuss financial regulation, he received a forceful broadside from Andy Haldane, the Bank's executive director of financial stability. Haldane accused Carney and others of adopting highly complex rules to keep bankers in check when they ought to simplify banking.

But Carney is concerned to balance the needs of banks and the economy with a sophisticated mix of rules. He told Euromoney magazine last month: "The interests of the private financial community should be absolutely aligned with those of the regulatory community to grow the real economy in a sustainable way. And the more enlightened members of the financial community have that perspective."

Carney's rise started in Canada's Northwest Territories, where he spent his first six years before moving with his parents, a university professor and school teacher, and two brothers to Edmonton. In high school, he began his ice hockey career which culminated in winning the US national championship at Harvard, where he gained his first degree in economics. He then travelled to Oxford, where he pursued a master's.

Goldman Sachs followed. While in London he met his British-born wife, Diana, an economist specialising in developing-world issues and a star player on the Oxford field hockey team. He went back to Oxford to complete his PhD and then rejoined the firm before being appointed deputy governor of the Bank of Canada in 2003. He left in November 2004 for a senior position in Canada's national finance department that included being the country's G7 deputy.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Phillip Inman, economics correspondent, for The Guardian on Monday 26th November 2012 19.45 Europe/London

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image: © World Economic Forum

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