A jet-setting financier who flaunts his luxurious lifestyle on Instagram has defended his glamorous image as he launches a new British bank. Anthony Watson – who is already being branded the 'Insta-banker' – has set up the Bank of London, a clearing bank that will process payments in Britain and abroad pitting it against the big four lenders: Barclays, NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds.
The new banking group has appointed Lord Mandelson, who was Business Secretary under Gordon Brown, as its deputy chairman, and another Labour politician, Baroness Margaret McDonagh, as an independent non-executive director.
Watson has also drafted in a former senior executive at the Financial Conduct Authority and a Goldman Sachs banker.
Luxury: Anthony Watson's pictures of himself on his open Instagram feed
But unlike typical chief executives of banks, Watson catalogues his lavish life on social media despite his role at the helm of a newly regulated bank – a position that is closely scrutinised by regulators given the potential impact on Britain's economy and customers.
Photographs posted by the former Barclays banker on his Instagram account show him relaxing on private jets, including one at MiamiOpa Locka executive airport, which is reserved for private planes.
Another photo is captioned 'Ciao London. The slopes of Gstaad await! Life is short. Your wings already exist. All you have to do is FLY! Thanks for the ride @netjets #PrivateJet #PrivateJetLife.'
Other pictures show Watson enjoying top end ski resorts, yachts, helicopters, and hanging out with celebrities from Made In Chelsea.
Watson, 45, told The Mail on Sunday: 'I'm not ashamed or embarrassed about my life. That's why my Instagram is open, I'm not going to apologise for how I look, nor for being successful. I have the right to enjoy the fruits of my labour like everybody else. If I were the chief executive of a bank I didn't create – I put my own money in this – if I were chief executive of Lloyds, I probably wouldn't be as flamboyant as I am with my personal life on Instagram.'
Watson has bold ambitions. He said he was planning for Bank of London to be bigger than the likes o Barclays and HSBC in five years in the volume of payments it will process. He said the bank was using slick technology to allow cash to be transferred and immediately available in a recipient's account and will offer business banking from cash management to foreign currency payments.
Watson, who has held senior positions at Nike and US bank Wells Fargo, is already planning to expand internationally and is in advanced talks with regulators in the EU and US. He said: 'I'm a serious player in the financial services industry. I've gone through a four-year process with the regulators, they've independently assessed me, and they thought I was the calibre and have the experience to lead a British bank.'
Watson said he invested in the bank using money from his time at Uphold, a Bitcoin trading business. Sources said it was likely that the bank would soon make acquisitions to bolster the business. The company plans to hire more than 3,000 people across the UK, EU and US over the next five years – with the bulk of jobs initially in the UK.
Watson said he was also intent on promoting diversity. A long-time donor to Labour, he was made lead LGBT adviser to the party and MP Dawn Butler in 2018.
On board: Bank of London has appointed Lord Mandelson as its deputy chairman
'I'm gay, I came out when I was 21. Unfortunately I was homeless for nine months. So everything I've made, I've made myself,' he said.
'I didn't grow up with a successful family or a silver spoon in my mouth, so every penny I've made is my own.' It is understood that McDonagh and Mandelson are being paid fees for their roles and do not have a stake in the bank, which it says is valued at $1.1billion (£800million). Watson is thought to own just under 50 per cent of the bank, making him a multi-millionaire on paper.
Watson said that Mandelson and McDonagh, who were selected by an independent headhunter, bring a wealth of financial and political experience to the board.
'Baroness McDonagh was one of the first women on the board of Standard Life. Lord Mandelson is the former European Trade Commissioner, the former Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, and currently a senior adviser to Lazard.
'They bring enormously relevant experience to our board.'
He added: 'I'm not going to apologise about being from the Left – I'm not going to apologise for supporting Labour or supporting Keir Starmer. I'm pro-business, and I'm pro-Labour.'
One social media post includes a photo of Watson giving a speech at an event alongside former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. But Watson says he has only met Corbyn once.
'If you look at most British bank boards, they're generally Right [wing] and come from a very specific class of people. We chose to be different, I'm the only openly gay chief executive of a British bank, and for me it's incredibly important to have a diverse board.'
The company has a group board and another for the bank – with financial heavyweights including former regulator Victoria Raffe, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Harvey Schwartz and former Barclays executive David Skillen.