Alleged renegade UBS trader schooled in prudence had taste for London's high life
These top banks hire the best and brightest ambitious young people and when they outperform everyone else the bankers want to believe in their brilliance so they look the other way. That's exactly what happened at UBS.
Associated Press Newswires
By David Stringer and Pallavi Gogoi
(c) 2011. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
LONDON (AP) - Educated at an exclusive school in a picturesque patch of English countryside, Ghana-born trader Kweku Adoboli was known to neighbors as a polite and well dressed young man who mixed grueling hours in London's financial district with a lavish social life in the capital's nightspots.
But even the 31-year-old Adoboli, who was charged Friday with fraud and false accounting, appeared to foresee his work hard, play hard lifestyle unraveling. "Need a miracle," he posted on his Facebook page, just hours before his arrest early on Thursday.
Analysts and regulators were left questioning why Swiss banking giant UBS and its monitoring systems had failed to spot Adoboli's alleged fraud, which will cost about $2 billion in losses.
"Nobody blames the tiger for stalking its prey, but you do blame the zookeeper for leaving the tiger's cage open," said Stephen Brown, professor of finance at New York University's Stern School of Business.
Between 1992 and 1998, Adoboli was a boarder at Ackworth School, founded in the late 18th Century by Quakers, the religious organization which asks followers to develop a personal approach to religion.
Also known as the Religious Society of Friends, the Quaker faith stresses the importance of honesty and, according to the school's website, students are asked to observe periods of "reflective silence before meals," and attend regular worship meetings.
According to Vida Yeboah, a member of staff at the United Nations office in Ghana's capital Accra, John Adoboli, Kweku's father, had worked at the U.N. and was know by colleagues as a gentle, humble man.
The Times of London reported that Adoboli's father's worked in Ghana, Israel, Syria and Iraq -- sending his son away to England to be educated.
At Adoboli's $31,500-a-year school, set in rolling countryside close to the town of Pontefract, about 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of London, Adoboli would have been taught the value of a peaceful, simple lifestyle.
Despite the childhood schooling in prudence, Adoboli lived in an expensive loft apartment in a trendy corner of east London -- close to the capital's financial district -- and discussed on his Facebook profile a fondness for fine dining.
Philip Octave, Adoboli's former landlord, said he left the 4,000 pounds ($6,300) per month apartment four months ago. "He was a very nice guy, very polite. He would speak to anybody. I haven't got a bad word to say about him," Octave said.
"He was very well spoken and dressed very smartly. He was a very quiet chap, actually," he added.
According to his social media profiles, Adoboli embraced his bustling and ethnically diverse area of east London -- once downtrodden, but now home to well-paid traders and bankers working at nearby financial firms.
A favorite local nightspot was The Boundary, a swank rooftop bar and restaurant with views across London's banking district, known for its $1,200 magnums of champagne and pricey menu of seafood and traditional British game.
Adoboli also listed interests including expensive wine, photography and the gritty U.S. crime drama "The Wire" on Internet profiles, and disclosed he had been dating a nurse for at least a year. The banker said he enjoyed traveling to France, the U.S. and returning to Ghana to visit his parents.
After he graduated from the University of Nottingham in 2003 with a degree in e-commerce and digital business, Adoboli won a job with UBS as trainee investment adviser in 2006 -- rising through the company to join its equities desk.
The trader's LinkedIn profile confirmed he worked on a desk known as Delta One and worked with exchange-traded funds -- which track different types of stocks or commodities, such as precious metals. Adoboli and colleagues performed similar work to Jerome Kerviel, who gambled away $6.7 billion at French bank Societe Generale.
Brown said that banks have shown a tendency to fail to spot cases where ambitious and intelligent employees run into difficulty.
"These top banks hire the best and brightest ambitious young people and when they outperform everyone else the bankers want to believe in their brilliance so they look the other way," said Brown. "That's exactly what happened at UBS."
Brown drew parallels with the case of Nick Leeson, the Singapore-based trader who brought down British bank Barings in 1995 after he made around $1.4 billion of losses in unauthorized trades. Law firm Kingsley Napley, which represented Leeson, confirmed on Friday that it had been hired to represent Adoboli.
Kimberly Krawiec, a law professor at Duke University, in Durham, N.C., agreed that the culture inside UBS would need scrutiny following Adoboli's arrest.
"In the Kerviel case all the blame went to the rogue trader and Societe Generale got away with a slap on the wrist," Krawiec said. "That was a disappointing outcome because you have to accept there are broader forces at work when traders take on positions that are large enough to threaten large institutions and markets."
Gogoi reported from New York. Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, contributed to this report.