People and Business: Lowther signs for England

MERLYN LOWTHER will become the first woman ever to sign our banknotes when she succeeds Graham Kentfield as Chief Cashier of the Bank of England next January.

Mrs Lowther, 44, mother of two and married to a Newcastle United supporter, has spent her entire 23-year career at the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street since getting a first in Maths at Manchester University. Good to know our top bankers can do their sums.

British banknotes have only been signed by the chief cashier since 1855, whereas the cashier post goes back to 1694 when the Bank was founded. Mrs Lowther will be the 29th Chief Cashier.

So when does she produce the signature which will go on our notes? "Some time between now and January - I hope they will give me a few chances to get it right," she says.

"I won't be signing all the notes individually."

Which is just as well, since there are around 1.4 billion banknotes in circulation at the moment. The Bank's Essex printworks churns out another 1.25 billion notes every year, worth a cool pounds 13.7bn. The Bank reckons new notes replace old ones in a roughly two-year cycle, so there will still be plenty of "Graham Kentfield" tenners around by the Millennium as well as "Merlyn Lowther" twenties.

SIR DICK Evans, chairman of British Aerospace, may have been appointed a non-executive director of NatWest Bank last week, but that doesn't mean he's transferring his own bank account from the Midland.

He says that as a director of NatWest he wouldn't be allowed to borrow from the bank. Obviously the poor chap is underpaid...

OH DEAR. Carl Gough, one of the highest rated property analysts in the City, won the "Golden Brick Award" for going bankrupt fastest in a Monopoly tournament on Wednesday night.

Mr Gough and his number two at Commerzbank, Ray Jones, hit disaster at the Association of Property Unit Trusts Monopoly Challenge Dinner at the Savoy.

The shindig was the first of what is planned to be an annual event for the property industry. More than 220 property types witnessed Mr Gough's humiliation, including agents, surveyors, property lawyers and assorted tycoons.

Apparently property unit trusts (PUTs) now account for around pounds 5bn of assets under management and now they want to make a noise about it. There were 24 teams competing for four prizes, and play was limited to one hour 45 minutes.

It took less than an hour for Mr Gough's team to go belly up - shortly followed by Hill Samuel Asset Management.

The Commerzbank boys were presented with a pair of bricks removed from a City building site and painted gold, to act as book-ends. They were also presented with a deluxe "Monopoly" set so that they could practice for next year.

The other three winners got proper, "architectural" bookends. The prize for "most appropriately dressed team" was won by Morgan Grenfell Property Asset Management - who arrived dressed as convicts. Very reassuring for clients, I'm sure.

The prize for the team with the most property assets excluding cash was won by Knight Frank, property surveyor. The top prize went to Sovereign Land (originally part of the retail team at Gerald Ronson's Heron corporation), who had come as guests of Schroders, and who had the most property assets and cash when the whistle blew.

JOURNALISTS HAVE not looked forward to accompanying Her Majesty The Queen on her State visit to the oil kingdom of Brunei.

The foreign correspondents involved had to sign a Customs Declaration provided by the Royal Customs & Excise Department of Brunei, severely restricting the amount of alcohol they could take into the strictly Muslim country. The poor writers will not be able to buy booze for a full seven days, the length of the Royal visit.

The Customs form limits them to "two bottles of liquor or 12 cans of beer". They have also had to sign a statement saying the booze is for their personal consumption only.

It's a tough job - but someone's got to do it.

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