People & Business

STANDARD LIFE Bank is claiming a famous victory over its gigantic adversary BT in a row over the the phone company's latest "Good Vibrations" TV ad campaign.

Doughty Glaswegian Jim Spowart, managing director of Standard Life Bank, has sent Sir Iain Vallance's army "homeward tae think again", I hear. Or metaphorically, at least.

BT has agreed to withdraw its TV ads, which feature happy phone customers using a particular gesture, a clenched fist with thumb and little finger stuck out. Standard Life Bank, which only launched in January and has spent pounds 2m on an ad campaign using exactly the same gesture, has complained that the BT ads infringe its copyright.

Mr Spowart said his logo was designed by The Union, an Edinburgh-based advertising agency, and was an integral part of the bank's identity and advertising. BT countered that the gesture was a universal symbol in sign language for "I'm on the phone," a claim confirmed by the British Deaf Association. (It is also a universal surfing symbol for "hang loose").

Last week the two sides met, and BT caved in. The phone giant agreed to withdraw the TV ads, designed by the UK's biggest ad agency, Abbott Mead Vickers, "shortly".

At least, that's the Standard Life Bank version. A BT spokeswoman confirmed yesterday that there was a meeting last week, but that she "hadn't got the information to confirm" that BT were withdrawing the ads.

She said that she didn't have the date on which the ads would end, and added: "It [the hand symbol] is an international symbol - we maintain that. We have used it in our advertising since 1992. We intend to use it again."

Sounds like Mr Spowart's tartan army still has some redcoats to deal with after all.

AS MANY as a third of City managers lack the ability to communicate effectively. That's according to a report from Business Strategies/Mori and commissioned by Focus Central London and the Corporation of London. The report finds that while three quarters of City employers believe communication skills are the most important skills needed, a third claim their managers lack them. In what will probably have City workers nodding in agreement, the report also says that over a fifth of employers also believe their managerial/professional staff to be deficient in management skills.

Derek Miles, director of operations at Focus concludes that "either promotions are coming too quickly or adequate training is not being provided."

MOST financial institutions in the City seem to be for sale at the moment. Now the Americans have snapped up one of our "leading providers of urgent, on-demand delivery services," a "leader in the London point-to-point market."

This has nothing to do with racehorses, but is in fact a reference to a motorbike delivery service. Dispatch Management Services of New York has just bought Delta Air & Road Transport, based in London, for $28m.

Delta owns two London despatch rider outfits, West One and Security Despatch, which together have 13 per cent of the London "point-to-point market". It certainly sounds like horse racing. Perhaps it means you can bet on whether your parcel arrives in time or not.

I'VE HEARD of film spin-offs, but this latest press release regarding the Titanic is stretching it a bit: "When the Titanic sank in 1912, fortunately for its owners, the White Star Line, it had adequate insurance cover for its liabilities.

"However, how many modern-day small businesses could cope if faced with their own equivalent of the iceberg?" How many indeed. So says Yorkshire Bank, which is launching a new insurance service for businesses. Let's hope the service's maiden voyage goes more smoothly than the Titanic's.

I AM delighted to report that my colleague Andrew Yates had a brush with greatness on Monday lunchtime, when he played football against Sir Bobby Charlton at Old Trafford.

Well, Andy would have had a brush, if he could have got anywhere near the sprightly 60-year-old World Cup hero. The occasion was a couple of matches between financial journalists and analysts and various teams drawn from Manchester United's management and staff, on the sacred Old Trafford turf.

The first match included Martin Edwards, chief executive of Man United, and his finance director David Gill, who formed a powerful partnership up front. The financial journos and analysts crumbled under pressure and lost 13-1. Paul Wedge from Collins Stewart scored the consolation goal at the Stretford End, while the scribblers' keeper Keith Weir, a journalist with Reuters, performed "heroically", I'm told, in keeping the score down so low.

In the second game our Mr Yates failed to get anywhere near Sir Bobby, not to mention Peter Kenyon, deputy chief executive of Man U and formerly of Umbro.

Alex Ferguson, the Reds' manager, and Brian Kidd, helping with the coaching, couldn't play, as they were preparing for the Blackburn game set for Monday night. Andy reports; "I came on at half time. We lost 8-5." Ah well, back to the word processor.

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