City Diary: The best laid plans with mice and chancellors ... - Business - News - The Independent

City Diary: The best laid plans with mice and chancellors ...

We all knew about Ken Clarke's brown suede shoes, his pints and panatellas. It was worrying, however, to see the guardian of the nation's finances struggling to launch Crest yesterday lunchtime.

To be sure, the "launch" of the automated share-settlement system was the merest of media stunts - the actual system had been switched on at four in the morning.

The Chancellor duly turned up at Crest's plush new offices overlooking St Katherine's Docks, with bankers and Treasury mandarins in tow. Even a beaming Sir Iain Vallance of BT was there (if BT's Syntegra, part of Crest, crashes, then its his fault).

All our Ken had to do was tap a computer mouse twice and the screen provided would then announce "the launch of Crest". Which he did once, but only photographers saw. The huge mob of grandees and staff were at the other end of the building, quaffing champagne.

So Ken decided to launch it again. But, as he confessed, "letting me loose with a mouse is always reckless". A team of spin doctors leapt forward and reprogrammed the screen, but the Chancellor tapped the mouse to no avail. "Tap it twice. TWICE," squeaked a Treasury underling. And lo, it was launched.

The Crest system is really the baby of two men, Pen Kent, the Bank of England director sent in by the Government to clean up after the Taurus mess, and Ian Saville, the ebullient chief executive of CrestCo, also from the Bank. They formed a "Mr Nice and Mr Nasty" duo, according to one senior banker, bludgeoning the vested interests which sank Taurus into submission.

Mr Saville started the Crest project with a bushy moustache, but shaved it off two years ago. This was nothing to do with the project, a spokesman stressed, but on the instructions of his wife.

National Savings has snapped up Lloyds' former personnel director as its new chief executive. Peter Bareau, a violin-playing Old Etonian, has spent most of his career with Lloyds Bank International, much of it half-way up the Amazon. Boring high street bankers used to refer to such exotic creatures enviously as "the Orinoco boys".

Several years ago, Mr Bareau was called back, and became personnel director. The TSB merger swept this job away and although Mr Bareau has not yet had his leaving party, he has been open to offers for some time.

He's certainly less likely to catch malaria in National Savings's Kensington High Street head office.

So who is Claes Hultman, chief executive of Eurotherm, the electronic equipment manufacturer, who left in a huff when the non-execs wouldn't allow him to become chairman as well? Now the institutions have almost put him back in the saddle, we can reveal he is 49, Swedish, and spends a month a year on a small island he owns off the Swedish coast. His most famous saying is: "Power isn't something you get, its something you grab." With a little help, from the Pru and MAM, it seems.

The London Docklands Development Corporation is in the process of winding down, and is determined to present a glowing picture of its achievements. Yet even as Michael Pickard, chairman of the LDDC, was outlining its triumphs yesterday at the launch of its annual report, the Docklands Light Railway was suffering one of its most spectacular failures.

The DLR, Docklands's only link to central London apart from miles of traffic-clogged roads, is in the command of a computer system that keeps crashing. Yesterday, sweating passengers were informed of a signal failure, and then told that "the computer system had crashed and they would have to reboot the system". The report trills: "Research has shown that the DLR is itself the single most popular tourist attraction to London Docklands."

Hmm. How about a masochists' convention?

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