From Canary Wharf to Threadneedle Street

People & Business

Our heartiest congratulations to Peter Rodgers, our very own financial editor, who has just been appointed chief press spokesman for the Bank of England.

To be precise, Mr Rodgers will become Secretary of the Bank of England, succeeding the present incumbent, John Footman.

As such, Mr Rodgers will become part of the Governor Eddie George's famed "raised eyebrows", the mechanism by which the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street indicates her displeasure to City institutions with a quiet word in the right ear.

The last journalist to be hired as press officer by the Bank was Bernard Rickatson-Hatt, the Bank's press officer from 1941 to 1958, who was recruited from Reuters where he was managing editor.

Under Mr Footman, an emollient pipe-smoker, the Secretary's office merged with the press office - so Mr Rodgers becomes the first fully-fledged Secretary to be hired from outside. Montagu Norman, the celebrated Governor of the Bank earlier this century, is said to have offered the job to TE Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, who refused. Kenneth Grahame, author of Wind in the Willows was also a Secretary.

Mr Rodgers, 53, read natural sciences at Cambridge before joining the Oxford Mail as a trainee journalist in 1966. Since then he has worked on the Sunday Times, Guardian and the Independent, which he joined seven years ago. He assures me he won't be required to wear a pink frock coat, and bafflingly declined to comment about the direction of interest rates.

The appointment of Richard Harvey as successor to Allan Bridgewater as group chief executive of Norwich Union confirms once again that Mr Harvey is an ambitious man. He recently told one of my colleagues that when he goes on holiday, he doesn't really see it as relaxation.

He and his family like to set themselves goals or targets at the beginning of each day. Norwich employees can anticipate a fun time ahead.

The Budgerigar Society is launching its own Visa card. We've had credit cards issued by everyone from the Law Society to football clubs, even by London Irish Rugby Club.

Now budgie lovers can "demonstrate their love for budgerigars to the outside world - as well as the chance to take advantage of a credit card that compares very favourably with those available from the high street banks". So says the card's issuer, American-owned Beneficial Bank.

This reminds me of a tale told by Mike Abrahams, compliance officer at Barclays Bank's financial services arm, and previously head of compliance at the PIA.

As a child, Mike had a pet budgie which liked to perch on top of a door. One day an insurance salesman called, slammed the door shut - and squashed the beloved budgie stone dead.

Mike was only told the truth years later by his mother. Friends have speculated whether this early, traumatic contact with an insurance salesman has caused in part his vocation for regulating them, as a form of revenge. He's certainly missed a trick letting Beneficial Bank get the coveted budgie card account.

Ian Byatt, water regulator, manages to charm the pants off MPs on the Trade and Industry Select Committee (not literally, I hasten to add). As he's being grilled about the water industry one MP remarks that Mr Byatt is drinking bottled mineral water.

To which Mr Byatt gleefully points out that he'd recently insisted on tap water before the Environment Select Committee. "I drink tap water all the time myself," he says, to which one MP mutters: "That explains everything."

BAT Industries and Imperial Tobacco might like to take a leaf out of Philip Morris's book. The biggest cigarette maker in the world is seeking to get around new restrictions on tobacco advertising by launching its own record label.

Philip Morris has quietly been preparing a big launch of its label, Woman Thing Music, named after the ad slogan for its Virginia Slims cigarettes: "It's a woman thing."

The company plans to flood the market with loads of CDs by largely unknown female artists. The CDs will not be on sale at record stores, however.

They will be given away free with two packs of Virginia Slims in special packages, which will be available in supermarkets and other outlets.

UK companies could do the same with a band like the Spice Girls. The Nicotine Girls has a certain ring to it.

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