Bankers forsake their wood-panelled splendour

City Diary
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The Independent Online
That exciting hub of activity, the British Bankers' Association, is uprooting itself after 50 years in wood-panelled City offices and moving to trendy new open-plan premises in Old Broad Street.

The BBA, which represents over 300 British and overseas banks, moved to its old building in Lombard Street, sandwiched between Lloyds Bank's head office and a post office, in 1947.

This made it very convenient for the current chairman of the BBA, Sir Brian Pitman, who is also chairman of Lloyds Bank.

But now the lease has run out. On the floor below the BBA the library of the Chartered Institute of Bankers, which if anything has even more wood panelling, has also been forced to move, this time to Number 90 Bishopsgate.

The old BBA building used to be the hub of the City's entire cheque-clearing operation, with a fleet of little grey electrically powered vans whisking piles of paper to the basement where they were sorted.

The Chartered Institute's boardroom upstairs has a series of giant murals depicting the "arts and industries" of Great Britain, as well as stained glass, all made at about the time of the Festival of Britain in 1953, and all in a similar austerity style. The Museum of London is interested in saving them. Coutts, the top-drawer private bank now owned by NatWest, will probably end up occupying most of the building. The best thing about the murals was that they were something to look at during the BBA's ineffably dull briefings on EMU and the like.

So Auf Wiedersehen then, Richard Karl Goeltz, the finance director who came into NatWest Bank at its nadir four years ago, and leaves Lord Alexander's ship as it looks in better shape than ever.

Mr Goeltz is returning to his native America to take up a juicy appointment at American Express, where he will be vice-chairman as well as keeping the accounts in order.

The 53-year-old pipe-smoking, Latin-quoting financier plunged into London life with gusto when he arrived. He become a governor of the Sadler's Wells Foundation, just as the north London opera house was embarking on an expensive rebuilding programme. He also had time to join the slightly less bohemian Accounting Standards Board.

The finance whiz is also of German ancestry, as his name suggests, and is a director of the New Germany Fund, set up to help the process of east- west reunification.

Mr Goeltz will still be busy back in New York, where he sits on a committee at the Federal Reserve Bank. He is also an "overseer" of Columbia Business School in Manhattan, where he did his MBA.

But will Mr Goeltz still be allowed to smoke his beloved pipe in the hyper-health-conscious US?

What no self-respecting Archbishop should be without: the church of St Edward the Confessor in Dinghouses, York, carried an advert in its latest parish magazine for "the St Edward pen, priced at pounds 2.50. It is a high quality, twist-action ballpoint pen in burgundy with god trim and lettering".

God trim, eh? Verily, the mind boggleth. They meant "gold trim", of course.

As Peter White, the larger than life chief executive of Alliance & Leicester Building Society, prepares to convert the Society to plc status, he has recruited a high-profile director of strategic marketing from Lloyds TSB. Tim Pile, 43, began his career at an advertising agency DMB&B in 1974 and moved to pr agency Dewe Rogerson in 1989 as managing director, advertising. All this should suit Mr White, one of the more publicity conscious of the mutual heads. Mr Pile will take up his job in Leicester next autumn, with the priority being to unify marketing for three divisions; personal financial services, direct financial services and corporate banking. Mr White will remain in his delightful offices overlooking Hyde Park in London.

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