Exchange's new chief aims for credibility: No 'no-go areas' and high hopes for change, says Lawrence

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL LAWRENCE, finance director of the Prudential, who has been appointed chief executive of the Stock Exchange, says he is determined to fill the exchange's 'credibility gap'.

The hot seat fell vacant when Peter Rawlins resigned over the Taurus fiasco, which cost the City at least pounds 300m and set back plans for an automated share settlement system by years.

'There is a credibility gap to be filled but there is a great recognition that change is needed in all walks of the City,' the new chief executive said.

Mr Lawrence, a former partner of Price Waterhouse and adviser to the Ministry of Defence, added that his most important tasks would be balancing the interests of all participants in the capital markets and to promote globalisation.

He said he had been given no fixed agenda for the exchange and there were no 'no-go areas' barring him from any part of its work. 'I believe there is a great deal of goodwill on my taking this role,' he added. 'There is a high expectation for change.'

Mr Lawrence said his own reaction to the scrapping of Taurus had been 'lack of surprise'. He had been involved in a number of computer projects that had not worked, either by delivering less or costing more than had been planned. Developing Taurus, where there were so many competing interest groups, must have been 'very difficult'.

Mr Lawrence admitted that part of his reason for leaving the Pru was the unlikelihood of Michael Newmarch, the chief executive, vacating the top slot for some years. When the exchange's executive search consultants contacted him four weeks ago 'it took me about five seconds to accept the job'.

'I had just passed 50, we had done a lot of things at the Pru and another major challenge was welcome,' he said.

The experience that Mr Lawrence will bring to the job includes chairmanship of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors, a doctorate in mathematical physics and his qualification as an aircraft pilot.

He would not be drawn on the cost to the Pru of preparing for Taurus, but said that the most damaging aspect had been the delay in bringing in automated share settlement.

'One day people thought it was about to happen and the next day it wasn't,' he said. 'People don't like shocks.' He would try to see that any shocks under his regime would be 'not as traumatic'.

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