Pembroke: Posing out of line

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PETER WOOD, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland's rapidly growing Direct Line Insurance subsidiary, stood out among executives posing on the platform at the bank's interim results presentation yesterday. Not because he is one of the highest-paid people in Britain by virtue of his 1992 performance-related bonus of pounds 6m - which could rise above pounds 10m in 1993 - but because he was the only one not sporting the bank's attractive navy and sky-blue corporate tie.

As onlookers speculated on how he was able to get away with the sartorial infraction, one of his colleagues said with admiration: 'If Direct Line continues to make profits like it's doing, he can wear what he likes.'

MICHAEL HESELTINE, President of the Board of Trade, was among around 150 guests attending a lunch at the Langham Hilton to mark the launch of the Indo-British Partnership, which is designed to boost the 400-year-old trading links between Britain and India, where Hindus hold the cow sacred.

Much was made of the deep-seated understanding between the two countries - why, they can even talk about cricket together, as one speaker cried.

A number of the Indian guests, who had been engulfed by this flood of cultural understanding, were fortunately able to appreciate the irony when they were subsequently served beef stroganoff for their main course.

REMEMBER the Bundesbank's embarrassment a fortnight ago when it put out a press release that failed to mention that it had just cut its Lombard and discount rates? Remember the temper tantrums of thousands of forex dealers who continued merrily to trade at the higher rates?

True, the Bundesbank's second press release, issued a few minutes later, did mention the cuts. But, recognising the fury of journalists and money-men alike, the bank is hastily considering an upgrade of its rather antique system of handing out information on pieces of paper. One of the possibilities is to give news of interest-rate changes to screen- based financial news wires. The central bank will be testing such a direct feed system and hopes to start using it within the next three to five weeks. Thereby catching up fast on the rest of the financial world.

THE TIMES are a-changing at Coutts, the subject of a crackdown by its parent, NatWest Bank. Not only has a man with a northern accent, the likeable Ian Farnsworth, replaced the plummy-toned Julian Robarts as chief executive, but, at some pounds 150,000 a year, he's also being paid pounds 30,000 more.

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