Nationwide makes sharp cut in bid for lost youth

City Diary
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Nationwide Building Society hit the headlines for two reasons this week. It introduced the lowest mortgage rate since 1965 and its chief executive, Brian Davis, 51, shaved off his moustache.

"There is no connection at all," Mr Davis protested unconvincingly yesterday. "Shaving the mortgage rate just happened to coincide. I've shaved the moustache off before - the last time was a year ago, for charity. I'll have to wait for my family's verdict to see whether I grow it back. Some people say it makes me look younger."

The last thing the Liberal Democrats like is to be upstaged by Labour, and so yesterday the Lib Dems wrote to SBC Warburg with their plans for "reacquiring a controlling interest in Railtrack" following privatisation. Labour already know their own plans will be included in the prospectus to be published on Monday, under the heading "political risk".

Bankers were haring around SBC Warburg yesterday working out the implications of the Lib Dem "me too" statement, but were at a loss as to whether they would also figure in the prospectus. The best they could come up with was: "Certainly political risk will be fully addressed."

Peter Gummer, chairman of spin doctors Shandwick and brother of John Selwyn Gummer, the Environment Secretary, was the man behind the Tory propaganda booklet sent out yesterday in which a dozen businessmen extolled the Prime Minister, John Major. The wheeze was dreamt up by something called the "Life's Better in Britain" foundation, which should have its work cut out with the agricultural sector.

Mr Gummer was unavailable for comment yesterday - he was on holiday in Mustique, leaving fellow Tory PR adviser Sir Tim Bell to field calls.

British Airways' chief executive, Robert Ayling, will be named Advertiser of the Year by the International Advertising Festival, a spokeswoman said yesterday. The chief of "the world's favourite airline" will receive the accolade in June at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

The next time you're in a jet about to take off and the air hostess starts explaining how to tie the life jacket on, take a closer look. If it's a Virgin flight to the US it could be Lisa Leeson, wife of Nick Leeson, the derivatives trader who brought down Barings Bank.

Lisa applied in the usual way - the normally publicity-mad company insists it was an "unsolicited application" - and hopes to get on the Singapore route so that she can visit her incarcerated hubby.

Virgin said yesterday: "She will fly on trans-Atlantic routes initially and as with all new Virgin Atlantic cabin crews, Lisa has to complete six months' service before qualifying for concessionary Virgin flights and one year before receiving discounts on other carriers."

In these days of complaints about glass ceilings and the lack of women in top management, full marks to FI Group, whose shares started trading yesterday and where four out of the top five executives are female.

FI has 17 per cent of the UK market in "Standalone Applications Management" according to UBS, which in English means it provides support for specific computer systems to third parties. Chief executive Hilary Cropper, deputy chief executive Jo Connell, director of business expansion Lyn Barrat and group marketing director Tricia Gardom lead the charge.

Reuters has undergone an image overhaul "to reflect the group's contemporary character and meet the design requirements of multimedia." One master stroke is to establish two corporate colours: blue and orange. Colour is all-important, as Alliance & Leicester Building Society separately insists in a recent piece in Money Marketing. A&L has found out that house buyers are lured by some colours, like blue, and put off by others, like brown. And A&L's unique corporate colour scheme? Blue and orange. The "Reuters to buy building society" rumours start here.

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