For someone that’s just been banned from working in the City by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), John Hughes has the air of a man who doesn’t much care. In fact, his whole investment banking career has been posited as something as a footnote to a glorious new vocation as a hot shot developer.
As the boss of Kweku Adoboli, who was at the centre of the 2011 rogue trading scandal that cost UBS $2.3bn, Hughes “should have been a role model to others”, the FCA said in a statement explaining why it has banned him from performing any regulated activity. Instead, despite knowing about the ‘Umbrella’ that allowed UBS’s exchange traded funds desk to mis-state its profit and loss and Adoboli to rack up unauthorised losses, he failed to report it.
Hughes has put his time in investment banking behind him, anyway, describing himself now as a “product evangelist” for his venture Betsofmates.com – a ‘social betwork’ allowing friends to wager against one another online – that he has been running since 2012.
“Once upon a time I was an Investment Banker with strong macro-economic understanding. Skilled prop trader with focus more on psychological intuition than fundamentals,” he writes on his LinkedIn profile. This is the only mention of a five-year trading career at UBS, where he was the most senior trader on the bank’s ETF desk.
Hughes' new venture may be something of a relief from the stress of the financial sector. He said that when he found out about the Umbrella he felt "a bit sick", but later became supportive of the idea. However, later he was "lying every day" to his superiors when discussing the desk's PnL. Knowing that both he and Adoboli would lose their jobs if he disclosed the Umbrella to the senior management, he instead remained silent, suggests the FCA investigation.
Hughes has instead focused on developing his skills in a sector where he’s arguably more employable than if he’d stuck in investment banking. He’s repositioning himself as a data scientist (supposedly one of the world's hottest vocations) and a developer with Java, MySQL, C# and Python skills.
All of this is relative, however. Hughes is based in Leeds, where he says he’s “CEO, COO and CTO” of Betsofmates – in other words, he’s something of a one-man band. The website does have the backing of digital sports agency Sportbox Media, though, and is in the process of raising more funds for further expansion.
Hughes appears to have disconnected his mobile number – available on the Betsofmates website – no doubt in reaction to journalists seeking comment on his FCA ban, so we couldn't get in touch. However, when we last spoke to him, he had no ambitions to get back into investment banking.
“I’m much happier doing what I’m doing now than I was when I was trading,” he said. “If someone were to offer me a job back in the market now, I wouldn’t take it.”