Lloyds to head off City revolt over choice of finance chief

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The Independent Online

Lloyds TSB is preparing a charm offensive with shareholders this week as Helen Weir, the former head of finance at Kingfisher, moves into pole position to take up the role of finance director at the bank.

Lloyds reports its full-year figures next Monday and it is thought likely that Ms Weir's appointment, although not yet confirmed, will be announced alongside the results.

The board, however, will have to convince shareholders that Ms Weir's lack of experience in the banking sector will not hamper her ability to do the job, or allow Eric Daniels, its chief executive, free reign on the bank's finances.

Lloyds' previous finance director, Philip Hampton, also joined Lloyds from outside the banking world, having masterminded the break-up of BT. But he did not survive long, and was ousted last month after ructions with Mr Daniels that are thought to have centred on the company's dividend policy.

The bust-up has caused some concern in the City that Mr Daniels, who took over at the bank in June, has a dictatorial style in the boardroom. Some shareholders are thought to fear that Ms Weir lacks the firepower to tackle being finance director at Britain's fifth-largest bank. She will have to take on the thorny issue of its high-yielding dividend, on which the bank has so far held fast.

She will also have to get to grips with new solvency rules for life insurers - there are already concerns that Lloyds may be affected by the impact of these rules on its Scottish Widows business.

Boards have become increasingly nervous about shareholder approval of senior appointments, after a City backlash against Sir Ian Prosser, who was chairman-elect at Sainsbury's, forced him out of the role before he had even started.

Lloyds' board is likely to promote the strengths of her experience in a large and complex conglomerate such as Kingfisher, which recently went through a demerger to concentrate on specialist DIY retailing.

High street banks are under pressure to become more customer-focused and it is hoped that Ms Weir will be able use her retailing knowledge to improve Lloyds customer efficiencies.

She quit Kingfisher in November, saying she wanted to find a more "operational" role. Should Ms Weir secure the job, she is set to become one of the most powerful women in the City, with a pay packet to match.

Ms Weir is accustomed to high rewards. She banked £1.2m in 2002 while at Kingfisher, which included a £334,000 relocation allowance to move 40 miles from Hampshire to Buckinghamshire.