Midway through our conversation, John McFarlane rolls his desk chair to the left to reveal we’ve had company all along. Pinned to the wall behind him are three brass figures, which he introduces as the “three wise men” of feng shui.

Through booms and crashes, the 73-year-old banker has, over several decades, worked for some of the biggest brands in finance on three continents. Until last year he was chair of Barclays. Now he chairs Westpac, one of Australia’s big four. And through the bulk of his career he has been trailed by the trappings of this ancient Chinese philosophy...

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