Egg shattered as finance chief quits

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The Independent Online

Egg's, the UK's largest online bank, lost its finance director yesterday when Stacey Cartwright suddenly resigned from the company to pursue a career outside financial services.

Shares in the company fell nearly 7 per cent during the day before recovering somewhat to close 4 per cent lower at 125p, as investors feared the loss of its respected finance director meant there could be trouble brewing in the company. Ms Cartwright, 39, has been with Egg since 1999 and oversaw its partial float in 2000 when the venture raised £150m.

The bank, which is 79 per cent owned by Prudential, has yet to be fully profitable. David Doyle, head of corporate finance at Pru and second to its finance director, Philip Broadly, has been appointed as Ms Cartwright's successor. He is considered to be one of the inner circle around Jonathan Bloomer, chief executive of Pru, and his appointment yesterday sparked speculation that Pru was gearing up to divest its Egg stake. "His remit has got to be assessing whether Pru can find an exit," one analyst said. Pru itself is in need of capital to invest in its business despite cutting its dividend, and a sale of its Egg stake would provide additional funds.

Egg has succeeded in the UK by undercutting high street banks with low interest rates on credit cards and higher savings rates. "Ms Cartwright's departure is a bit of a surprise," Robin Down, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, said yesterday. "Egg's UK business is doing very well and the returns there are improving, but its French business has been a bit of a disaster for them." The losses in its French division caused Egg to post a first-half pre-tax loss of £22.8m in July.

A spokeswoman for Egg said Ms Cartwright had had a number of approaches from headhunters. She has no immediate job to go to, but she wanted some time to explore talks with other companies. Before joining Egg she worked for 11 years at Granada, the media group, and she is keen to leave the financial services sector. It is understood she wants a finance director's role in a company involved in more merger and acquisition activity than Egg.

"From a personal perspective, the time is right for me to seek new challenges," Ms Cartwright said yesterday.

Paul Gratton, chief executive of Egg, said Ms Cartwright had helped turn around the company's start-up losses towards profitability.