Visa swipes Rodrigues from Bradford & Bingley

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The Independent Online

Christopher Rodrigues, the colourful chief executive of Bradford & Bingley, yesterday revealed he was ditching the once sleepy building society to become head of Visa International.

Mr Rodrigues had cut a controversial figure in the City for his stewardship of B&B over the past eight years. While he raised the profile of the company by floating it on the stock market, he also increased its risk profile by focusing on niche lending such as buy-to-let and equity-release products.

Rod Kent, the chairman of B&B, said Mr Rodrigues' intended departure, which he learned of two weeks ago, came "completely out of the blue". But he added that it was an example of British business leaders being headhunted to run companies on the global stage.

Mr Kent said Mr Rodrigues had been lured to Visa by a salary which was "several multiples" of his pay at the UK financial institution, which ran to £750,000 last year.

His successor will be Steven Crawshaw, who, as B&B's director of lending and savings, has played an integral part in the lender's aggressive move into specialist mortgages and commercial property loans.

The company made it clear that a change of its chief executive did not signal any change of direction in strategy, which some analysts have criticised for being very risky. Mr Crawshaw said: "This is specialist lending done by a specialist. It is not a market to dabble in."

Despite his commitment to B&B's current route, the City welcomed the appointment of the 42-year-old Mr Crawshaw, after his division contributed 80 per cent of B&B's otherwise lacklustre annual profits announced two weeks ago. "He has taken an increasing role in investor relations and he has come over well," one analyst at Fox-Pitt Kelton said.

Mr Rodrigues, one of the larger-than-life characters in the City, who was a rowing blue at Cambridge University, will depart at the end of the month to take up his new job in San Francisco. He will become president and chief executive of Visa, which is a network of 21,000 banks, including many in the UK. Visa processes £1.4 trillion worth of plastic card transactions a year worldwide. Its major competitor is Mastercard.

Mr Rodrigues, 54, has had considerable experience of the financial payments systems, having worked in the past for American Express and the travel company Thomas Cook.

B&B shares slipped 2p yesterday to 302p.