The business on: Graham Beale, Chief executive, Nationwide

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The Independent Online

Is he the man responsible for those terrible Little Britain ads?

Come on, be fair. It must have seemed like a brilliant idea to team up David Walliams and Matt Lucas with Fabio Capello and the boys for Nationwide's latest promotional campaign. The building society does sponsor the England team, after all.



Not for much longer, we hear?

Indeed. Mr Beale said yesterday that Nationwide was likely not to renew its sponsorship of the England squad after having its name appear on their shirts for 11 years.



Isn't that a bit of a knee-jerk reaction?

Well, this isn't about England's World Cup performance – not entirely. Some months ago, the Football Association asked Nationwide to rebid for the sponsorship contract, which was due to end after the World Cup. It offered a not insubstantial £20m. The FA decided that wasn't enough and assumed a stellar performance from the team in South Africa would prompt a bidding war. Oops.



So Mr Beale doesn't want to be associated with losers?

That's a little over the top. After all, Nationwide is Britain's biggest building society and, as a "mutual", it is owned by its members, the savings and mortgage customers, and run for their benefit, rather than for shareholders. This is the acceptable face of capitalism.



A force for good then?

It would like you to think so, though since Mr Beale took over as chief executive on April Fool's Day in 2007, eyebrows have been raised about some of his decisions. He dropped a key guarantee on mortgage pricing, for example, got rid of Nationwide's policy of not charging customers who use its cards abroad, and has banned over-the-counter cash withdrawals of less than £100, which pensioners are up in arms about.



But don't all managers have to make tough choices?

Quite. Mr Beale would point out that Nationwide fared well during the credit crunch. Cynics, however, will note that his predecessor, Philip Williamson, was something of a football nut. Mr Beale, less so.

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