When the organisers of the Basel committee came to Nout Wellink and asked him to serve as its chairman from 2006, he turned them down flat.
Already head of the Dutch central bank and a member of the European Central Bank’s board of governors, he was completing a term as president of the Bank for International Settlements and had no desire to dive into the minutiae of setting global banking standards.
“I really doubted if I should do it. My colleagues here [who had participated in the decade-long effort to finalise the Basel II standards] told me about endless discussions about tiny problems they couldn’t find a solution for,” Mr Wellink, now 69, remembers. “I said, for months in a row, no, please try to find another person.
“I was persuaded to accept the job because they told me that there’s nothing on the agenda, nothing urgent, for years to come,” he says.
Less than a year later the financial crisis struck and Mr Wellink found himself at the centre first of bank rescue efforts in the Netherlands and now the debate on how to prevent a repeat of the catastrophe.
Mr Wellink comes to the role after a career in Dutch government service. A law graduate of Leiden university, he also holds a doctorate in economics from Rotterdam.
He worked at the finance ministry from 1970 to 1982, where he held several posts. A father of five, he moved to the Netherlands central bank as executive director and became its president in 1997.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get it right because there is now a sense of urgency,” he says.
Get alerts on European banks when a new story is published