People & Business: An accountant's life can be exciting - just ask Hamilton

The London Society of Chartered Accountants, the largest and most active of the district accountancy societies with 23,000 members, has moved into new offices in Basinghall Street, just round the corner from the Guildhall, and has elected Nick Hamilton, a managing partner of Hereward Philips, as its chairman.

For an accountant he has a distinctly purple patch in his CV. After qualifying at the age of 22 in 1971, he decided to spend a year travelling from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego and back by the Amazon and the Caribbean before settling down to the graft of accountancy.

High points included being given shelter in a YWCA when he found himself in the freezing Yukon with no winter clothing, and then crewing a cargo ship in the Caribbean. Low points included a 6,000-foot climb up the side of the Grand Canyon to find the bars all shut for election day, and a month picking tobacco in Canada.

Married with two children, his hobbies include scuba-diving and underwater photography, and playing cricket and tennis, although he is currently nursing a cracked ankle from paint-balling with his children.

He is expected to stand up for the 23 district societies in the face of proposals to merge them into a smaller number of larger regions, and to fight to retain activity-based funding from the Chartered Institute itself rather than the proposals to switch to direct funding by the local membership.

The London Bullion Market Association has appointed Peter Fava, a former managing director of Alexanders Discount and now head of precious metals at Midland Bank, as its new chairman.

Born in Malta, the son of an army doctor, Mr Fava was given a choice of foreign exchange or bullion when he joined Johnson Matthey from Lloyds Bank in the early Seventies and has never regretted the advice that bullion was the more interesting option.

Married with two children, his interests include golf and hill-walking near his Dorking home and in Italy, and opera, especially Italian.

The bullion market has always been a by-word for traditional practices with representatives of five old-established City firms (mostly now in new ownership) sitting round a table "fixing" a gold price twice a day and silver price once a day.

The fixing still provides a reference point for the rest of the world but there are now 12 market-makers, trading in both physical gold and derivatives, and in spite of recent rate rises interest-bearing gold loans are a cheap and attractive alternative to currency loans for mining houses keen to maximise their cash-flows.

Other reforms including electronic clearing are on the way and Mr Fava believes the hatching of the EMU will simultaneously reduce the number of currencies available for the foreign exchange market and promote gold as a realistic trading competitor to the dollar, yen and euro.

Meanwhile, on the subject of bullion, Mahatma Ghandi's face was the only real choice to adorn the gold rupee coin struck to mark the golden jubilee of Indian independence on 15 August.

It was designed in London by the Patwee design partnership and will be manufactured by Pobjoy Mint in Surrey.

The reverse is pretty functional too, but the new coin weighs 10 grammes of 24 carat gold and is expected to sell in India for an estimated pounds 100 including import duty, a premium of about 40 per cent on its bullion content.

It will also be a bankable item, which will earn interest at about 3.75 per cent on minimum quantities of 500 coins. Some 30,000 pieces will be available for sale in the UK.

I hear of a major addition to the world of whisky tourism with the opening yesterday of a new visitors' centre at the Glenkinchie malt whisky distillery, just 15 miles by road from the centre of Edinburgh.

The centre was opened by Lord Macfarlane, the honorary life president of United Distillers. It already contained a scale model of a distillery and is now blending the art of the distiller with the techniques of son et lumiere. For pounds 3 a head visitors will get a 60-minute tour, a dram and a pounds 3 discount voucher.

The distillery hopes to double the number of visitors to 60,000 a year and popularise the malt which, I am told, is in the mid-price range for malts, light in colour and character and an ideal aperitif.

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