BRAIN FOOD: Sir Peter Middleton - If I had to start again ..

BRAIN FOOD: Sir Peter Middleton - If I had to start again .. - The biggest career decision I made was to go to London. In the modern, global world I'd probably have gone overseas - either New York or Washington. Had it been Washington, I would have tried

by SIR PETER MIDDLETON, chairman of Barclays Bank plc

The biggest career decision I made was to go to London. In the modern, global world I'd probably have gone overseas - either New York or Washington. Had it been Washington, I would have tried to pursue my academic interest in statistics. However, it was London in 1960, a temporary job in the civil service - which turned, almost by accident, into a 30-year spell in the Treasury. It was a job I would have paid to do - and did, considering the low rewards available! Where else could one spend 15 years nationalising followed by 15 years privatising, 15 years watching the economy spiralling towards disaster and 15 helping to restore fiscal and monetary stability.

Eight years as permanent secretary was a bit long, but it meant that I could leave at 57 and start a second career in the private sector. Today, markets are global and immensely powerful. You feel their force driving innovation and efficiency, when not dulled by mindless attempts to impose bureaucratic disciplines like detailed regulation and straitjacket forms of corporate governance. Much as I enjoyed the intellectual stimulus and collegiate working of the civil service, there is no substitute for the feel of the market. I entered the private sector at the top, where the full force of competition is a bit diluted. If I were to start again, I'd like to have got there sooner and been at the sharper end, closer to the consumer. But you only really value public and private life if you have the experience of both.

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