Blood on the carpets as `Attila the Brum' takes BZW by storm

People & Business
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When Birmingham-raised Bill Harrison arrived at BZW from Robert Fleming in September some people jokily dubbed him "Attila the Brum" in the hope that he would weld the various cultures within the investment bank into a more cohesive whole.

Some blood letting was implied in the title. Few BZW insiders, however, anticipated that the soubriquet would become so apt.

The carpets of the bank are fairly drenched in the blood of senior staff, while last week the bank sacked 33 people from its back office, sales, trading and secretarial staff.

Various other descriptions of Mr Harrison are currently doing the rounds among the shell shocked troops at BZW, none of them suitable for a family newspaper.

Those jolly pranksters at Credit Lyonnais Laing have produced an amusing Budget spoof in the shape of a newspaper, The Laing Times - 30p. The headline on the front page reads: "CL Laing EXCLUSIVE: Ken goes for a `p'."

The headline refers to Laing'n'Bang's Budget prediction that the Chancellor Ken Clarke will cut the basic rate of income tax by 1p to 23p in a bid to win the election.

Sadly, we were unable to bring you a suitable illustration of this story.

NatWest may be the UK leader in small business lending with 28 per cent of the market, but it also seems to have more than its fair share of house restorers.

For instance, Ian Peters, head of Small Business Services at NatWest for two and a half years, is handing over the reins to Peter Ibbetson on 2 December.

Mr Peters and Mr Ibbetson are both martyrs to their historic houses. Mr Peters spends most of his free time doing up his large pile in the Sussex Downs. Mr Ibbetson is similarly immersed in restoring his 400-year- old thatched cottage in the village of Sharnbrook, near Bedford.

Mr Ibbeston, 40, is also a trustee for Cherish, a charity dedicated to preserving the structure of his local church, although he says the money he lavishes on his cottage "has made it feel like a charity for the last few months".

Mr Ibbetson is that rare breed, an investment banker going into the retail variety. He's spent the last eight years in the Aerospace department at NatWest Markets advising the European Commission. He has, however, over 22 years with NatWest Group.

Dame Sheila Masters, a council member at the Institute of Chartered Accountants (ICA), has led the charge for women at the male-dominated bean counters' professional body for many years. Now she has competition.

Teresa Graham may not have been elected to the bean counters' council yet, though she has made a good start as chairman of the Workplace 2000 initiative. Workplace 2000 was founded by the ICA in response to a demand from its women members to provide them with information and advice on workplace issues, not least how to break the "glass ceiling".

Ms Graham qualified with Price Waterhouse in 1980 and is a former chairman of the London Society of Chartered Accountants. Her appointment should liven up the ICA's fusty offices in Moorgate.

Fountain Forestry is going for an AIM listing in December. The forestry management company run by Barry Gamble, chairman and chief executive, has made a name for itself by clearing tree branches near railway lines, which can create the notorious "leaves on the line" problem.

One snag occurs to me. National Tree Week begins on the 23 November. So the tree huggers will be out in force just when Mr Gamble will be tramping round institutions seeking funding.

A Fountain Forestry spokesman is quick to dispel the notion of the company as an enemy of trees. "It's a very green company. They trim the branches but they don't imperil the existence of the trees." That's all right then.

You may have thought that Smith & Williamson was just a boring little accountancy firm near the BBC in Portland Place, London. In fact, it has been involved in investment management for 70 years, and has grown to such an extent that it has need to poach Charles Lindsell from Prudential Portfolio Managers to head up its securities side.

There's just one cloud on the horizon, however. Last month the firm won the Accountancy Age award for Medium Sized Firm of the Year, a sure kiss of death.