Ex-Chancellor’s consultancy makes £1 million profit

31 August 2022 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read

The consulting firm of former minister Philip Hammond has raked in £1 million in profits, while working for a list of controversial clients. Matrix Partners reportedly took on work from the governments of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain – even after the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments suggested such a move could be seen as ‘unfair’.

A Conservative Party Member of Parliament from 1997 to 2019, Philip Hammond spent nine years as a cabinet member for the incumbent government. Under Prime Minister David Cameron, he served as Transport Secretary from 2010 to 2011, Defence Secretary from 2011 to 2014 and Foreign Secretary from 2014 to 2016, while the following premiership of Theresa May saw him take on the role of Chancellor of the Exchequer from 2016 to 2019.

Having held the most powerful political office other than the Prime Minister, he stepped down as an MP in November 2019, and formed Matrix Partners two months later. The years since have proved a great success for the firm, according to reports from the Guardian.

Ex-Chancellor’s consultancy makes £1 million profit

Citing accounts filed in 2022, the paper revealed Hammond – who is now a life peer in the House of Lords – has built “a lucrative business since leaving government in 2019”, as his firm offers “advisory services” to clients from the private sector, and also a host of foreign governments.

As stated in the Lords register of interests, clients of Matrix have included Japanese investment bank Nomura, US hedge fund Davidson Kempner and London property developer Canary Wharf Group. The accounts of Matrix also show that for the financial year ending March 2022 – which show a profit of at least £991,465 and possibly as much as £1.4 million in its first two years of business – the firm worked for the internationally condemned regimes of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.


As with all politicians who trade in high-powered state positions for the world of business, his new venture was subject to scrutiny by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments (ACOBA). However, recent years have seen concerns rise that the regulator is incapable of properly enforcing its standards.

ACOBA considers applications under the business appointment rules about new jobs for former ministers, senior civil servants and other Crown servants, to prevent conflicts of interest arising, or for former public servants from using inside knowledge and networks to unfairly compete in the private sector. In 2017, however, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee slated the institution as a “toothless regulator”, citing serious problems with the system as it currently operates – including the fact it was not significantly detached from networks such as Parliament or government.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, who then chaired PCAC, stated in Parliament, “[ACOBA] comprises both political appointments and independent members. However, despite Baroness Browning, its chair, telling PACAC that she wanted “every bus driver and hairdresser…to apply” to be an independent member of ACOBA, its composition remains dominated by the great and the good.”

The case of Hammond’s firm working for the Saudi Arabian government is likely to see such criticisms come to the fore again. It is a business relationship which Hammond was noted for having brokered while still in office. A 2020 report from the Telegraph noted that while as Chancellor, Hammond was “better known for a penchant for spreadsheets than for his charm”, readers might be surprised to learn that “in his final days at the Treasury, Philip Hammond took the time to pen a flattering letter to the Saudi minister to whom he has since taken up a role as a paid adviser.”

On top of that, Matrix was given permission by the regulator to work for Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, even after the regulator had conceded it had some concerns on the relationship. A statement from ACOBA admitted the inside knowledge of the UK government Hammond possessed could be seen as offering “an unfair advantage” to the Saudi government – an autocracy which stands accused of grave abuses by multiple human rights groups.

Similarly, ACOBA also gave the green light to Hammond’s work for the Bahraini government – which he had informed the committee would include working for its finance ministry. He would also offer “strategic advice as part of an advisory council of British senior figures” with defence, security and foreign policy backgrounds – each areas he had specialised in during his time with the UK’s government.

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It is not the first time Hammond has been the subject of concerns regarding the alleged use of his inside knowledge to benefit private enterprise. In 2021, ACOBA criticised Hammond for using his government connections when assisting OakNorth, a bank that was paying him for advice. The regulator said Hammond’s use of his contacts at the Treasury was “not acceptable”.

Hammond is far from isolated, either. With the number of ex-ministers moving into the private sector continuing to rise, there is concern that the situation may have already overwhelmed current institutions. In late 2021, another study by the Guardian found that half of all ministers who left office during the Boris Johnson or Theresa May governments later took up posts with companies relevant to their former government jobs – with over 50 such appointments occurring during the two administrations. With the Conservative government set to be helmed by a new leader once again in September, and various Johnson confidents presumably heading for the exit in that case, that could soon be set to rise further.

Not all MPs wait to end their political careers before taking up consulting, though. Last year saw an extensive scandal emerge in the wake of the government’s failed attempt to absolve Owen Patterson – a backbencher who had earlier served in David Cameron’s first cabinet as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – of accusations of conflicts of interest. While still sitting as an MP, it emerged that Paterson earned £8,333 per month, for a monthly commitment of 16 hours as a consultant for the healthcare company Randox Laboratories – a company it emerged he represented in a call with James Bethell, the Minister responsible for awarding contracts to the private sector during the pandemic in April 2020.