City Diary: Now Harry has Molly to behave badly with

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The Independent Online
Only people living on Mars could have failed to see the cute TV ads by Safeway starring Harry the four-year-old, whose innermost thoughts are spoken by actor Martin Clunes, he of Men Behaving Badly fame.

On Tuesday Safeway owners Argyll unveiled a new series of ads, When Molly met Harry, introducing an equally cute three-year-old girl. Colin Smith, Argyll chief executive, was delighted to cavort with the kids for the launch of the campaign at the company's Camden, London, branch. The company restructuring 18 months ago means Safeway accounts for 93 per cent of operating profits - so Argyll will rename itself Safeway following this year's agm.

Not all is sweetness and light. One of our Safeway spies tells us that, away from the cameras, Harry is "a bit of a prima donna, a right little Lord Fauntleroy". A natural actor, in fact.

Congratulations to Salomon Brothers' newly appointed senior German economist in Frankfurt, Gernot Nerb.

"We are delighted to welcome Mr Nerb as a member of the team," said his new managing director, Kermit L Schoenholtz. Nerb 'n Kermit - there must be a TV series there somewhere.

Turning people down for a bank loan can be a tricky business. With the onset of the Data Protection Act it's getting even trickier. Barclays Bank dominates the small business lending market in the UK, along with NatWest.

Yesterday Barclays launched its lending adviser system, designed to help branch managers make loan decisions. The general idea is you tap in all the various numbers about the company and the answer pops out at the end.

The human factor rears its ugly head, however, with something called the "ethics box". This is the part of the paperwork where the bank manager has to rate the management under a series of headings, in descending order: "Scrupulous, moral, opportunistic, law-abiding, law-breaking, unscrupulous, fraudulent." Since this is all fed into a computer, the management can ask to see what the manager has said about them. If they think its damaging, they may even require Barclays to prove the judgement in court. And you thought technology was here to help.

Eurostar's marketing push has had a pretty ropy start but that has changed now Richard Branson's Virgin is involved in the UK end of the Chunnel operation. Yesterday the company offered a carrot to customers - buy a first class return ticket to Paris and get a standard return free. Hacks enjoyed the Branson touch when they were presented with real carrots in tasteful little plastic holders bearing the inscription, "A carrot by any other name." The man's a genius.

Deutsche Morgan Grenfell was doing what it does best yesterday, poaching two top people from UBS and enraging the Swiss bank in the process. But this time was special. Morgan Grenfell is going back into UK equities, having scrapped its department eight years ago by sacking 450. The new operation will be headed up by John Smith, until yesterday morning UBS head of European equities, backed up by UBS head of institutional sales Mark Rutherford. As usual with DMG signings the rumoured package is in the million bracket. DMG will hire another 75 professionals by the end of the year.

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