Roddie Fleming to take over as chairman of family bank

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The Independent Online

Robert Flemming, one of the last of the remaining UK independent merchant banks, announced yesterday that Roddie Fleming, a fourth generation Fleming with 23 years of experience in the company, is to take over the chairmanship next April.

Robert Flemming, one of the last of the remaining UK independent merchant banks, announced yesterday that Roddie Fleming, a fourth generation Fleming with 23 years of experience in the company, is to take over the chairmanship next April.

John Manser, the current chairman who is retiring next year, said that the appointment underscored the continuing commitment of the family, which owns nearly half of the bank.

"This is a family company and in family companies the family must visibly support the institution. Roddie [currently deputy chairman] is following tradition. He is the fifth family member to chair the group. It does show the family commitment," Mr Manser said.

Fleming has been the focus of a great deal of takeover talk over the past 18 months, fuelled by a series of defections, including the departure from the bank of some family members and a series of financial setbacks in Asia.

The talk has largely abated since Fleming struck a deal late last year with the Hong Kong-based Jardine family which resulted in Fleming's taking full control of their Asian joint venture and Jardine's taking a substantial stake in Robert Fleming.

A marked recovery in the bank's fortunes has also helped quell some of the doubts about the management's commitment to remain independent. The bank said yesterday that profits before tax rebounded to £110m in the first half to 30 September from £20m in the comparable half year, and £70m for the entire 1998-99 financial year.

The turnaround was particularly marked in Robert Fleming's investment bank which went from a small loss to a profit of £50m over a period where highlights included advising Centrica on its bid for the Automobile Association, the flotation of Kingston Communications and, abroad, advising the French side on the aerospace merger between Aerospatiale Matra and Germany's Dasa.

Explaining the sharp recovery, Bill Garrett, chief executive, said that the business was responding both to the improvement in Asian markets and the rapid action the bank took last year to cut costs.

With the integration benefits from the Jardine deal only just starting to come through, the bank believes it is well placed to see further improvement in the coming years.

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