Crown Agents are exactly what the name implies, an agent of Her Majesty the Queen. It was founded in 1833 as Crown Agents for the Colonies to administer the British Empire: printing the stamps and banknotes of the colonies; provided technical, engineering, and financial services (as a private bank to the colonial monetary authorities), government officials, heads of state; served as arms procurers, quartermasters, and paymasters for the colonial armies.
According to its own account:
- Crown Agents is an international development company providing direct assistance, consultancy and training for public sector modernisation, particularly in financial management, procurement and logistics...For many years Crown Agents was a British public corporation. In 1997 we transferred to the private sector as a limited company owned by a new entity, The Crown Agents Foundation.
The Crown Agents foundation Elected Members include: Barclays Bank plc, BBC World Service Trust, British Council, British Telecommunications plc, Caribbean Council for Europe, Commonwealth Business Council, The Co-operative Bank, FirstCaribbean International Bank, Barbados, Securicor plc, Securities Institute, Standard Chartered Bank, Tate & Lyle plc, Transparency International (Berlin) and Unilever plc.
Permanent Members are the Aga Khan Foundation, British Overseas NGOs for Development, Charities Aid Foundation, The Chartered Institute of Building,The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, Christian Aid, Richard Calvert (formerly Mr Mark Lowcock) (for the Secretary of State for International Development), Institute of Development Studies, International Chamber of Commerce UK, Mr Aiichiro Yamamoto (for Japan International Cooperation Agency), The Prince of Wales International Business Leaders Forum, The Royal Commonwealth Society, The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Worldaware.
Their board includes: Stephen Watson — who has recently retired as Principal of Henley Management College, Paddy Coulter — the Director of the Reuters Foundation Programme at Oxford University, Ben Hayman — who has worked for Coca Cola, Unilever and Ford, John Heskett — Baring Asset Management Worldwide, Sean Sutcliffe — Previously Executive Vice President at BG Group plc and Bryan Stevens — BP and Jenny Borden, present Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) — now known as Practical Action.
And of course Crown Agents do work in far-flung parts of the empire such Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Independent reported that: "Crown Agents, a privatized development assistance firm, has become the first British company to win a contract in the American programme to rebuild Iraq. It will be a subcontractor to International Resources Group (IRG), a US professional services firm providing technical assistance for planning and management of the reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Iraq."