Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the day Lehman Brothers collapsed. The moment stands out because of the powerful images it presented of one of the great names in finance, on both sides of the Atlantic, being allowed to fail- with all the drama of bankers leaving the Canary Wharf headquarters with boxes of personal belongings.

In many respects it wasn’t the high watermark of the 2018 financial crisis. The disaster of Northern Rock the previous year, the unravelling of RBS and the takeover by Lloyds TSB of HBOS afterwards, that both required massive bail-outs, the sharp fall in house prices, were all momentous events in the UK.

The global financial crisis was really a chain of events that started out as the sub-prime crisis back in 2016, became known as the worldwide credit crunch by 2017 and for several years the European sovereign debt crisis, when the contagion spread through weak financial institutions across the continent after 2008.

Although things have calmed down since those frenzied day, the legacy of the financial crisis remains huge. The UK’s national debt is a massive £1.78bn, or 86% of total GDP- requiring annual service payments of £48bn. This leaves us vulnerable should the UK economy start to slow down.

Interest rates have remained at ultra-low levels for the last decade-wiping out savings for millions, as a result of the massive quantitative easing (QE) programme (of which the long-term effects are still unknown).

Who is responsible for getting us in this mess? Although various macro economic factors were partly to blame, many are also convinced that the bankers that developed casino-banking models are at fault, as well as the regulators and politicians that supported a ‘too big to fail’ mentality.

As well as the traumatising feeling that the world might suddenly cave in, many have harboured a deep, underlying resentment that a self-serving elite not only created the conditions for the crisis, but then allowed bankers to keep taking massive bonuses, years after the bail-outs.

Some commentators have suggested this resentment helped feed the anger that resulted in the Brexit referendum result. Ironically, the likely economic downturn-especially if there is a ‘no-deal’ scenario, combined with the dangerously indebted position of the economy, could be what results in future problems.

Class of 2008

With all that in mind, its extraordinary that so many finance leaders of the banks that collapsed have not only managed to restore their careers- but actually prosper in the years afterwards.

Where they have ended up is fascinating. Although Northern Rock’s David Jones was fined by the FSA and Barclays’ former FD Chris Lucas was named a co-conspirator but not charged in an SFO investigation into a £3bn emergency fundraising by Qatar in 2008, the rest have done well for themselves.

While some took the entrepreneurial route, setting up a variety of consultancies, others were gainfully employed by big organisations. Insurer Friends Life hired former Lloyds Banking Group FD Tim Tookey as CFO and HBOS’s former FD Phil Hodkinson as a non-executive.

Skipton Building Society took on Mike Ellis, who succeeded Hodkinson at HBOS and Nationwide Building Society has both Tookey and former Alliance & Leicester FD Chris Rhodes on its books.

The class of 2008 have generally not been tainted by the events of 10 years ago. There is even a sense that they may have valuable experiences, gleaned from darkest hours of the financial crisis, that they can bring to new corporate situations.

But there is also a lingering question about the degree to which they could or should have moderated the behaviour of their gung-ho CEOs in the days leading up to the financial crisis.

In an extraordinary twist, Nelson Chai who was the CFO of collapsed Wall Street giant Merrill Lynch started work this week as the CFO of ride-share group Uber, one of the most aggressive tech giants on the planet. Plus ça change?