People & Business

Robin Angus, the Edinburgh-based investment trust guru at NatWest Securities, has produced his annual spoof Christmas carol, comprising 20 verses of pithy comment on the year's happenings. All together now:

"Good King Wenceslas was cross

His hopes had been demolished

He feared he'd face a hefty loss

Since PEPS had been abolished.

Every year he'd tucked away

The full amount permitted,

But planning for a rainy day

By Labour's been outwitted."

And so on. However, what really caught my eye was Mr Angus's introduction, in which he reveals a hidden streak of anarchism unlikely in a Scottish financier: "A dream of mine is to start an airline without seat-belts and security checks, which will allow me, if I want, to run cartwheels up and down the aisle, festooned with metal objects and smoking my pipe." The self-proclaimed enemy of the Nanny State continues: "If I got hurt it would be my own silly fault and I would have no comeback against the airline. Neither would any of the other passengers, who would doubtless wander around juggling with knives and smoking spliffs. But what blissful freedom!" Indeed. And with the dawn of Scottish independence, who says Mr Angus won't get his wish? Arise Caledonia, and pass the joint.

Talking of carols, and I'm sure you've heard enough of the things already this festive season, it appears that "The Twelve Days of Christmas" exerts some kind of hold over the accountancy profession's imagination - if such a thing exists. KPMG Management Consulting have come up with a version of "Twelve Days" featuring European Monetary Union (EMU), while Price Waterhouse, bless'em, have come up with a list of methods to keep the gifts in the carol VAT-free.

KPMG's ditty kicks off: "On the first day of EMU, KPMG warned me: there'll soon be a single currency." Keeping with the Euro spirit, I would have to say: "Nul points." Sorry, Michael Littlechild and Russell Fox, partners in KPMG Management Consulting. Over to Dugald Carstairs, PW's director of VAT Services. How do we keep "Seven swans -a-swimming" free of VAT, Dugald? "You'd think that if ostriches can be zero-rated, so could swans, but it's going to be hard," he says. "However, painstaking research reveals that, historically, the Monarch has the right to eat swans. So there's clearly a case for zero-rating as foodstuff - all you need is a genealogist to prove that your true love is related to the Royal Family, convince the VAT Tribunal, and we're there." Indeed we are, Dugald. Now you know what accountants do instead of charades.

Are City spin doctors College Hill entering the foray to become a bulge bracket investment bank? They've just hired Kevin Feeney, a brewery analyst at UBS, following the appointment two months ago of Jenny Nibbs, a stores analyst from James Capel. Then there's Vernon Partridge, an insurance watcher they took from Williams de Broe a year ago. College Hill boss Alex Sandberg denies it all. "They're being hired for their City experience. They will act as consultants," he says. Other recent recruits include Ron Hepburn, who was head of corporate communications at Yamaichi before the Japanese bank went pear-shaped, and Tony Friend, the ex-managing director of pr rivals Ludgate. Mr Sandberg warns that the New Bugs's first hazard will be coping with the annual dinner he traditionally cooks for the staff at College Hill's Gresham Street offices. "This year its Thai Green Chicken Curry," he says.

Tim Miller, who founded his own unit trust company Portfolio four years ago with his colleague Richard Timberlake, owns up to "commercialising the Queen's Speech." The good news is that its for chairty. Just as our Monarch finishes her address to the nation this Christmas, Classic FM will broadcast a concert from the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, sponsored by Portfolio. The concert was recorded a fortnight ago, and raised pounds 13,000 for the National Appeal for Music Therapy. Over 600 guests attended the recital in the same hall in which Nelson lay in state for two days. Mr Miller is certainly going to enjoy a happy Yuletide. He's just sold the remaining 30 per cent of Portfolio which Fidelity didn't already own to the investment giant, for around pounds 1m. Shared between four executive directors, that should make a nice stocking-filler. "But we didn't sell it for the money," says Mr Miller. He's happy to put up with the increasingly stringent capital adequacy requirements which regulators use to safeguard the industry. But the birth of the Financial Services Authority is another matter. "I'm deeply diappointed by what's happened. It will be just as bureaucratic [as the last system] and possibly worse - because it's bigger," he says.

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