Don't leave, ING chief tells Barings clients

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Financial Correspondent

City wags who have dubbed Barings' Netherlands-based rescuers ING as "cloggies' or "the Dutch post office" have obviously not met Aad Jacobs, ING's feisty chief executive.

Asked whether any clients had withdrawn their funds from Barings' £30bn fund management arm since Sunday's rescue, Mr Jacobs said yesterday: "There are some clients who are scared, and some have said they are going to leave us." But his message is simple: "You can leave us but you can never find a better investment manager.

"We are fighting like hell (against the competition). I myself and all my colleagues are at the disposal of the asset management group to do everything to keep these clients. I have made calls to clients myself."

Barings is setting up help lines to reassure customers after several hundred million dollars of deposits were reclaimed when the bank re-opened on Thursday. The bank declined to give precise figures, but denied that it was now threatened by a full-blown "run on the bank".

Mr Jacobs said there would be no witchhunt at Barings: "People like to have scapegoats but that is against the philosophy of ING." So what if a court decided that Nick Leeson was innocent? "I don't think we are going to invite him for a new job", the chief executive replied. "On the other hand, if Leeson writes a book about what happened, I will definitely buy a copy."

He said he expected the Bank of England report to be ready within six months. "The Bank of England is going to do a very accurate and precise investigation. I will buy the first copy."

No one is going to be sacked, Mr Jacobs insisted. "Peter Baring will retire before 1 October because he is 60, and that is the mandatory retirement age here.

"As for other people, we will have to wait for the report, to see if any of them are to blame. I'm not going to act as long as they are not guilty."

Mr Jacobs is installing ING's Hessel Lindenburgh as chairman of a liaison committee to oversee the Barings businesses. ING people will also have places on three other committees that will be set up to oversee the fund management, corporate finance and securities divisions. Although they will have a strong say in management, Mr Jacobs insists: "Barings have to run the show. Our businesses in the US have a high degree of independence. But first we have to be certain what happened."