City Diary : The building societies that definitely said 'No'

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The Independent Online
Poor old Michael Hardern, self-employed butler and founder of "Members for Conversion", a ginger group for building society members who want remaining societies to convert to plc status and shower their customers with the resulting cash handouts.

Mr Hardern has been unceremoniously booted out by Bradford & Bingley, Chelsea, Nottingham and Britannia.

His crime? For being "nothing but a nuisance, a troublemaker, a waster of members' money", according to B&B director John Wriglesworth.

Mr Hardern describes his expulsion as a member by the quartet as "outrageous. It's all very sad. Another democratic institution that doesn't want its members to participate in the running of it".

Mr Hardern's campaign came to a head when he asked the Building Society Commission for access to membership lists of all 52 remaining mutuals. The BSC turned him down, and Mr Wriglesworth's battalions took their cue, sending back whatever money (with interest) Mr Hardern had deposited with them, and informing him his custom was no longer welcome. "He's just after a quick buck," Mr Wriglesworth concluded.

Even for the hardened professionals, Facia's creditors' meeting in London yesterday was a pretty staid affair despite fresh Serious Fraud Office interest. The company's receiver, KPMG's Tony Thompson, had a dry run rehearsal beforehand, practising 160 of the trickiest likely questions. In the event, the massed ranks of KPMG, Grant Thornton and lawyers Nabarro Nathanson had to deal with just one query, without a scream or a tantrum in the house.

There was hardly an actual creditor to be seen. A few suppliers, yes, who had (literally) lost their shirts, or several thousand quid to Facia's chairman Stephen Hinchliffe. Most of the 80 or so there were fellow accountants, in fact, vulturing for the liquidation job once the receivers had finished recovering the banks' debts.

On the circuit, apparently, these professional meeting goers are known as the "98 club" (after section 98 of the Insolvency Act). Section 98 enables creditors to convene a meeting to appoint a liquidator. Ambulance chasers, then, by another name.

Many Scots have sailed off to the distant shores of Australia over the past two centuries. Now quite a few of them are coming back.

Bob Scott, chief executive of General Accident, has just recruited a fellow native of Sydney, Philip Twyman, as a group executive director in charge of finance.

Mr Scott admits that both come from Australian-Scottish stock, and both hail from the same Antipodean city - but that the link ends there. They did not know each other down under, and it's not an Ozzie plot to take over the Perth-based insurer.

The link grows stronger. GA has just sent a Scot, Hector Smith, to Australia to run the company's business there.

Congratulations to Christopher Sheridan, former deputy chairman and chief executive of Samuel Montagu, one of the very few people in the City to reach the top of a merchant bank from starting as a humble forex trader.

Mr Sheridan retired from the HSBC-owned bank two years ago and has just been elected a non-executive director of City law firm Lovell White Durrant.

The 53-year-old Twickenham rugby fan adds this to a clutch of other non- exec directorships, including Yorkshire Building Society and Prudential- Bache International Bank.

Law firms are keen to grab top City types for their boards these days, as their share of corporate work increases. In the 25 years he was there Mr Sheridan built Samuel Montagu into one of the best foreign exchange operations in the City. For all that he is a "very modest chap", according to City colleagues.