Barry Williams made one major wrong move in a seemingly otherwise sound career - and is now paying the price

The FSA’s final notice on Barry Williams this month was a sad and shameful end to a career in insurance.

Williams followed in his father’s footsteps to spend his working life as an insurance broker. By 1998, at the age of 48, he had risen to become deputy managing director of the aviation division of Lowndes Lambert Aviation.

In 2000 he tried to set up his own aviation broking house. Just a year before the September 11 attacks on New York, it was not an auspicious time to go it alone. In 2002 his brokerage folded.

Be careful what you wish for

It was then that Williams met the businessman who would be his undoing. At first, Clifford Felstead must have seemed an answer to Williams' prayers, finding him a job setting up an aviation insurance account for a legal expenses insurance broker. When Williams failed to do so, Felstead brought Williams on to the board of Surety Guarantee Consultants Ltd (SGC) in 2004.

Williams later said he took the directorship for a “quiet life”, planning to retire in a couple of years. At first he found the simple existence he sought.

“I decided to be quiet, accept the free lunches, afternoon drinking sessions and laid-back life style,” he admitted at his fraud trial.

No such thing as a free lunch

Despite a growing sense of unease about business practices at SGC, Williams kept his head down. When he was asked to sign a bond over the limit agreed with insurer Markel, Williams questioned it. But when he was assured that it was common practice, he acquiesced.

Williams' quiet life came crashing down, however, when SGC's £2m fraud against Markel and QBE was exposed. Only then did Williams look into the detail of SGC's business, and he was commended by the judge at his fraud trial for his frankness and his study of the documents.

But by that stage the FSA decided it was too little, too late. WIlliams received a lifetime ban from working in the financial services sector and was fined £25,000. His search for the "quiet life" really will be just that.