The son of a United Nations Peacekeeper, Kweku Adoboli spent the first years of his life in Ghana, Israel and Syria before moving to West Yorkshire at the age of 12. Embracing the egalitarian values of Ackworth, the Quaker boarding school he attended, Kweku would eventually become Head Boy before moving on to study and graduate from the University of Nottingham with a degree in Computer Science and Management.
Although he had never planned to become a banker, after an internship in the summer of 2002, Kweku joined UBS Investment Bank as a full time Operations Analyst in 2003. His loyalty and work ethic contributed to a stellar rise through the organization and in January 2006 he was given his first junior trading role, before being promoted again 9 months later to become a junior trader on the bank’s rapidly expanding ETF and Index Trading Book.
In late summer 2007, with queues forming outside Northern Rock as what was first dubbed a “credit crunch” morphed into the Great Financial Crisis, Kweku’s direct manager resigned from the firm and he and another colleague were asked to assume control of over $50 billion of assets. Although they only had 30 months experience between them and few resources, the two young traders did everything in their power to run a book central to the recovery and growth strategies of the UBS Global Equities business.
Four years later, in early 2011, despite having delivered $130 million of profit in the first six months of the year, they were asked by senior management to increase their risk tolerances and profitability even further. By August they realized the true cost of pushing too hard in pursuit of the corporate and institutional goals. In September 2011 Kweku Adoboli sent an email to his accountant accepting responsibility for $2.3 billion in losses for UBS.
Arrested, charged and tried on four counts of false accounting and two counts of fraud by abuse of position, Kweku’s life was forever changed. He was acquitted of four charges after a very public trial with both judge and jury accepting that he had never acted in pursuit of personal gain. Nevertheless, he was judged guilty of two counts of fraud and sentenced to 7 years in prison in the UK. Having served half of his term, Kweku was released in June 2015.
Currently embroiled in a complex legal battle to resist deportation by the UK Home Office – despite having lived in the UK for nearly a quarter century – Kweku is dedicated to helping others learn from his unique experience in an effort to contribute to restoration of the social contract through positive cultural and systemic change in our finance industry and beyond. Now 36 years old, he is an accomplished, engaging and inspirational keynote speaker who has spoken to audiences as diverse as the sixth-formers at Camden School for Girls; postgraduate students at Edinburgh University; CFA Charter Holders; FTSE 100 Leaders at the FT Global Banking Summit; members of the FT 125; fellows of the Forward Institute and the Oxford Students Union.
Kweku has been focussed on helping senior executives, thought leaders, policy makers and students look behind the headlines of his experiences of the last 5 years whilst considering the deeper lessons of what happened at UBS in the summer of 2011. Kweku’s has been a personal journey leading to a unique understanding of:
- Institutional behavior in our financial institutions
- How Incentives and Compensation Drive Decision Making
- Criminal Justice
- Criminal Punishment
- Human Rights