People & Business

Colette Bowe has turned from gamekeeper to poacher by taking the top job at Robert Fleming's retail asset management businesses, following her abrupt departure last year from the top of the Personal Investment Authority (PIA).

Ms Bowe was miffed that she wasn't offered a better job in the new regulatory structure, represented by Howard Davies's Financial Services Authority (FSA) - so she ruled herself out of the running for an FSA job.

Instead, this April she will become executive chairman of Save & Prosper and its continental fund arm, Fleming Fund Management (Luxembourg). She will supervise pounds 10bn in funds under management on behalf of half a million private investors.

So what other jobs was she offered before plumping for S&P? "I can deny that Roy Evans, manager of Liverpool, was ever in any danger." It emerges that La Bowe is an ardent Liverpool supporter, although she is less than impressed by their performance this season: "They're making a pig's ear of the title."

Does she miss the PIA? "Daily, yes." Then she admits the truth. "No. No is the answer." Although she does have a sneaking nostalgia for working in London's Docklands, she says. She thinks the FSA will do very well as "Howard Davies has a very good team", but says there was never a job broad enough for her at the new place after her four years at the helm of the PIA.

And any last comments on the vexed issue of pensions miss-selling? "I left the PIA some time ago - I am simply out of touch [with that subject]." A nice place to be.

Still at Robert Fleming, its top oil analyst and director is Alan Marshall, whose interests at present are closer to home. Having recently moved to a new des res on the Essex/Suffolk borders, he has discovered black gold at the bottom of his garden.

The not altogether welcome discovery came following his repeated attempts to fill his oil-fired central heating tank - to no avail. Every time the tank was filled, it would appear to be empty just days later. Mr Marshall soon deduced there was a leak - leaving impressive deposits of oil under his garden.

Mr Marshall has yet to put a net worth on the deposits.

Bill Harrison, aka Attila the Brum, or "Kaiser Bill" as he has been dubbed by colleagues following his move to Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, says he is still negotiating his contract as vice chairman of the investment bank.

Mr Harrison was at DMG's City offices yesterday, finalising details of his contract. Apparently, he spent the weekend ringing round various company bosses trying to drum up new business.

The affable Midlander will play a key role in the merger of Deutsche's commercial banking side with the DMG investment banking business, and will eventually head up DMG's corporate advisory operations. Deutsche's top brass may give the green light for the overhaul as soon as today, when the 10-strong "Vorstand" meets.

Mr Harrison says he is "strongly behind" the proposals, which include the dropping of the Morgan Grenfell name.

He says that he was first approached by DMG "very early on" - soon after he left BZW last October. He also had approaches from a variety of European and US banks and considered starting his own advisory boutique.

On his decision to go to DMG: "I just took my time. The bank structure and what they were crafting for me was a good fit."

There is potential for an interesting confrontation amid the snow-capped peaks of Davos in Switzerland at this year's World Economic Forum the weekend after next.

Not only is Bill Gates, the Microsoft boss and America's richest man, due to attend, but also nearly all the people who are attacking his dominant position in computer software.

Forget the Asian financial crisis. Davos could rapidly become a "get Bill" forum.

Mr Gates's main opponent is deputy attorney general Joel Klein, who is prosecuting Microsoft on behalf of the US Justice Department for alleged abuse of its market position. The row centres on Microsoft's "bundling" of its internet browser with its standard PC software, Windows 95.

Then there is a trio of Silicon Valley bosses who routinely attack Microsoft's practices and accuse it of retarding technical innovation in the market place. They are Larry Ellison of Oracle, Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems and Mark Andreesson, chief technical officer of and founder of Netscape.

Mr Gates might be best advised not to wander too far off piste.