Vittorio hired to help spread the Abbey habit

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The Independent Online

Abbey National, Britain's second biggest mortgage bank, attempted to inject some glamour into its image yesterday with the appointment of TV guru Lord Alli and the retailer Vittorio Radice to a new management board.

Lord Alli, who set up Planet 24 with Sir Bob Geldof in 1992, and Mr Radice, the former chief executive of Selfridges who is now head of Marks & Spencer's home furnishings business, have been recruited in the hope that they can use their ability to divine what appeals to consumers to make Abbey's products more attractive and accessible.

The bank has been in the doldrums since it emerged last year that it had a black hole in its wholesale banking department, its life insurance business was strapped for cash and it had taken its eye off the ball in competing for new mortgage business.

Luqman Arnold, a former investment banker recruited to head Abbey last November, has set up a Consumer Board to focus entirely on the design of products and how well they are being delivered to customers in the hope of winning new business. The bank has already recruited Angus Porter, a senior manager at BT, to head the board.

Lord Alli, currently a director of Shine Entertainment, said: "British consumers are like nowhere else in the world. They would rather talk about sex than the state of their personal finances. That is really hard to crack but my background in TV has been about changing people's attitudes to things."

Waheed Alli, who was made a peer in 1998, and Mr Radice are understood to be on less than £40,000 each in their new roles.

Mr Radice, already a non-executive director of Abbey, has been widely praised for his apparently magic touch when it comes to reinvigorating retail businesses. He was poached by Marks & Spender in March to head its home furnishings department.

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