Antonio Horta-Osorio is no stranger to risk. The Portuguese banker takes breaks from running one of Britain’s biggest lenders by swimming with sharks.
“Sharks are not dangerous. There are many more dangerous ‘sharks’ in other places,” he said shortly after he became the boss of bailed-out Lloyds Banking Group in 2011. The Portuguese banker had just taken a period of leave following stress-induced insomnia, and was discussing his fondness for shark diving – something he has done more than 100 times, including with three great whites in South Africa one Christmas.
The 56-year-old, who has announced he will step down from the top job next summer, was right to predict that shark swimming would remain low on his list of hair-raising moments. Tougher challenges lay ahead, notably steering the bank back into private hands in 2017 following its £21bn taxpayer bailout at the height of the 2008 financial crash, and more recently dealing with the economic fallout of Covid-19.
As the multi-millionaire prepares to move on from Lloyds, months after sources told The Telegraph the bank had stepped up its preparations for his exit, he will no doubt look back on a challenging decade that made him one of the best-known chief executives in Britain and earned him just under £60m.
It has been far from easy. As CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson puts it, Horta-Osorio has spent the last 10 years reviving a “basket case” business and returning it to profit against a backdrop of low interest rates, Brexit uncertainty and a sluggish UK economy. There have also been some high-profile scandals that have cost vast sums of money and rocked the bank’s reputation.