Alliance & Leicester finance director guns for the top job

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RICHARD PYM, the finance director of Alliance and Leicester, is making a play for the job of chief executive vacated after Peter White was ousting from the mortgage bank in a boardroom coup on Friday night.

John Windeler, the chairman and acting chief executive, has said that the board is looking at both internal and external candidates for the job.

However, with A&L being seen as highly vulnerable to takeover, City insiders say it is hard to see who in the industry - outside the group - would be willing to take on the role.

Friends of Mr White said yesterday that Mr Pym was the main mover in the coup last week, although Mr Windeler himself was becoming increasingly frustrated with Mr White's autocratic style.

Although Mr Windeler has set his face against a merger in the short term, sources close to Woolwich have acknowledged that Mr White's departure removes at least one of the obstacles to a merger between the two groups in the medium term. Woolwich and A&L are a similar size - both have a market capitalisation of around pounds 5bn.

Mr White approached Woolwich last year only to be rebuffed. It is understood Woolwich is now more sympathetic to the idea. The bank has invested heavily in its hi-tech open services family of bank accounts and is looking for a bigger sales platform to fulfil its ambitious sales targets.

Sources close to Mr White confirmed yesterday that Woolwich made an approach to A&L several weeks ago. But they say it is inaccurate to say that this approach triggered Mr White's departure.

Mr Windeler will this week begin a fortnight-long roadshow aiming to reassure staff that it will be "business as usual" following the events of last week.