Gyms and tonic as City banks muscle in

City Diary
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The Independent Online
Gym-building mania has swept the City in the last few years, particularly in the American investment banks such as Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch. The latter proudly boasts in the latest edition of the Securities & Investment Review that attendance at its in-house gym is up 57 per cent since 1993.

As employee fitness is now deemed so important, how are the Brits faring? According to the Review, Schroders has been holding aerobics classes for one 500-strong office where the average attendance has been between six and 12. Schroders is also one of the most successful investment banks in London. Is there a link?

"Complaints are generally seen in a negative way, but acted on positively, they help improve service and turn a potentially unhappy client into a satisfied customer and even increase business." So claims Chris Lane, chairman of Time Manager International, which makes personal organisers. Mr Lane is addressing the next Continuing Business Education meeting at Aston Business School, Birmingham.

The announcement from the meeting's sponsors, Grant Thornton, was titled, "A Complaint is a Gift" and was dated 1April. A spokesman insisted yesterday the timing was coincidental.

Rude funeral directors, ashes lost in the post and speeding hearses are just some examples of the bad service bereaved families have suffered, according to the first report from the UK's Funeral Ombudsman. The report describes a hearse that shot through a town at 40 mph while ignoring all traffic lights.

One relative was sent to the wrong funeral for someone with the same surname. Other complaints concerned undersized coffins, paupers' graves and brusque funeral directors rushing through ceremonies. "It's a completely unregulated business - anyone can set up a funeral business in their garage," Regina West, administrator of the voluntary Funeral Ombudsman Scheme, told Reuters. Since starting up in June 1994 Ombudsman Geoffrey Woodroffe had received 96 complaints from the 600,000 or so burials that have taken place, a number he reckons will increase once public awareness of his job grows.

He offered compensation to only five complainants, largely because half were against companies outside the scheme.

The Government was due to publish the latest report from its Six Wise People yesterday morning at 11.30. The journalistic herd arrived on the Treasury's doorsteps on time, but was kept waiting until noon, without explanation. Were they late dotting the i's and crossing the t's after the Easter break? A Treasury spokesman said yesterday evening: "There was a short delay in getting the document to the relevant door." He added that the wire services had the report from eleven o'clock in a "lock-up." No doubt suitable beverages were provided.

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