In the wake of Airbus bribery scandal, former BBB chief

In the wake of Airbus bribery scandal, former BBB chief

Louis Taylor is making a habit of being parachuted in at troubled state lenders. Taylor led UK Export Finance for seven years before he took over as chief executive of the British Business Bank last year, the state-owned credit agency that had been dragged into the high-profile Airbus bribery scandal.

The pan-European aircraft maker, which had been issued export credits by UKEF that were later cancelled, was accused of using a network of secret agents to pay bribes to foreign officials to land substantial overseas contracts between 2011 and 2015, resulting in Airbus being fined by three countries. For identifying all those wrongdoings, Taylor said, catalyst' for identifying all of that wrongdoing.

Taylor navigated the agency through the scandal - as well as a separate judicial review over UKEF's investment in a gas project in Mozambique - a process that Taylor described as 'bruising endeavours'. It helps explain why the 56-year-old geordie appears calm discussing the BBB's own controversies, which - while they too pre-date his arrival - continue to draw scrutiny.

The scandal-ridden lender Greensill, originally accredited to give government-backed loans to struggling businesses during the Covid-19 crisis, was later found to have breached the £50m-per-company cap by lending £400m to a string of companies linked to embattled metals tycoon Sanjeev Gupta. Greensill, which has since collapsed, was eventually stripped of those guarantees last year by the BBB.

The BBB, a state-owned economic development bank, was a crucial hub for the government's largesse to businesses during the pandemic, which it has struggled to recoup. In a bid to secure up to 71,000 UK jobs, the government said the government provided 7.3bn in support of exporters such as Nissan, easyJet and British Airways during the pandemic.

The BBB's bounceback loan program, which costs taxpayers up to a third, has become synonymous with fraud and mismanagement of taxpayer cash. It allowed commercial banks to operate with fewer checks on small businesses to allow them to borrow up to £50,000 apiece during the Covid crisis, to ensure money was distributed as quickly as possible.

Even if Taylor's predecessor Keith Morgan warned taxpayers about the fraud risks as early as May 2020, the latest estimates suggest that taxpayers will be left nursing about about £1.1bn in losses due to error and fraud by scammers, with disqualified directors spending tens of thousands of pounds on anything from a Range Rover to pornographic websites. The issue led former Cabinet Office minister Theodore Agnew to resign in January 2022 in protest, citing the government's 'woeful' efforts to control potential fraud.

The BBB was also dragged into a tribunal last year for failing to disclose the names of businesses that borrowed taxpayer cash - secret confession that the anti-corruption charity wanted to help identify fraudsters. A tribunal ruled in favor of the BBB, which argued for commercial confidentiality and succeeded in keeping names under wraps.

But Taylor thinks critics are beginning to acknowledge the trade-offs of the Covid loan schemes, which the government credits with having saved 500,000 businesses and 2.9 million jobs.

The BBB now has heightened awareness of the need for fraud and financial crime expertise in the bank and a greater understanding of the data that's necessary in order to prevent fraud, including better digitisation of business data filed at Companies House, and cooperation between lenders to ensure businesses can only apply for one loan.

The kind of pragmatism was undoubtedly influenced by Taylor's father, who served as a judge during what Taylor calls a privileged childhood. He said he was offered a huge number of opportunities, including attending a private school and then Cambridge University, where he unintentionally followed his father's footsteps and studied law.

He was first brought to JP Morgan, where he worked on corporate deals and debt, and later to Standard Chartered, where he became its chief executive in Vietnam. Supervising that overseas office laid the groundwork for an international focused role at UKEF - where he was drawn to work that, he says, was about more than just the bottom line.

The family married, with three children, to Kate.

Education Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, Cambridge University.

How he relaxes on cycling, dog walking, dinner with his family.