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NatWest Markets offers graduates useful advice

People & Business
Oh dear. Martin Owen may have resigned as chief executive of NatWest Markets on Monday, and the parent bank may have issued a profits warning, but no one got round to toning down a graduate recruitment ad for NWM in the papers yesterday.

While black clouds of gloom hang over NatWest's investment banking operation, the ad trills: "At the beginning of your career, making the right decision is absolutely vital. So before you commit yourself, consider what differentiates NatWest Markets from the other leading investment banks."

It then goes on about "an open working culture in which innovative ideas are encouraged, individuals developed and rewarded". Best not to mention this spring's pounds 90m traded options black hole.

"Secondly, as a fast-growing investment bank, we're self-motivated rather than self-satisfied. Our intention of entering the new millennium as a premier global, integrated investment bank ensures we're always competitive, never complacent."

Get your cvs in now.

While we're on the subject, NatWest's problems are getting a bit biblical, in an Old Testament sort of way. Remember last year's fire on top of the NatWest Tower? Now we have floods in the bottom two floors of the Princes Street branch in London, forcing staff to relocate. According to a spokesman a nearby water main burst "without any apparent reason", which suggests divine intervention to start with. Whatever next? A plague of locusts at the agm?

Manchester United's shares fell 11.5p yesterday to 599p after one of its non-executive directors, Amer al-Midani, sold half a million shares in the club. Reds supporters shouldn't despair quite yet, however - the sale only represents 0.77 per cent of the issued share capital of the company. So who is this Mr Midani?

A spokesman for the company isn't that forthcoming: "He had over 5 per cent of the club before it floated six years ago. He has extensive hotel and leisure interests, principally in Spain."

So there you have it. Seems a bit of a strange time to sell, though. The share price has come back from a high in February of 732p, and most observers expect it to climb again once the new season starts. Mind you, the shares were 427p early last year, so perhaps Mr Midani is just taking profits.

Chris O'Donnell, Smith & Nephew's deputy chief executive, is still on a high following the affair of President Bill Clinton's Knee. You will recall the President ruptured the tendons in one of his knees while visiting golfer Greg Norman. The cause of Mr O'Donnell's pride is that, following an operation, the Presidential knee was firmly held in a place by a Smith & Nephew "Donjoy" brace.

"We are world leaders in knee braces," Mr O'Donnell declares. "The basket ball player Shaquille O'Neal wore one of ours, and so did Paul Gascoigne."

Sadly, President Clinton's knee brace was not on show during his recent trip to Britain - he had completed his physiotherapy by then, says Mr O'Donnell. Before then the knee in question had been kept covered up - "not because the brace isn't attractive, but because the President can't be seen wearing one. It would be a sign of weakness," he says.

Nice to see the Personal Investment Authority (PIA) getting its priorities right. No sooner has the financial services regulator appointed a Roger Bright to head its membership services division - following the sudden defenestration from its Canary Wharf eyrie of former helicopter pilot David Cranston - than the new boy leaps into action.

So is Mr Bright close to resolving the ghastly delays in the pension mis-selling review, 18 months behind deadline?

No such fear. His first act, so I understand has been to rename his department. So, out with Membership Services and in with a brand-spanking new Authorisation and Supervision Division. It was about to be called the Supervision and Authorisation Division, until someone pointed out that the acronym might lead to some hilarity among PIA members.

The important thing about the PIA, however, is that it fights to keep its staff, as Malcolm Hedley, a senior member of its monitoring and enforcement team has discovered. Mr Hedley has been recruited by Prudential to help clean up the company, after the insurer was blasted in a confidential report by the Securities and Investments Board.

So concerned is the PIA that he might be compromised by his new employment offer that it immediately pulled him out of an enforcement visit to one of the Pru's rivals. Is the regulator therefore prepared to let him go early, to solve problems he helped identify at the Pru? No such luck.