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The Independent Online
SARAH EVANS has just joined Ernst & Young as a partner in the accountancy firm's fraud investigation and risk management group. I hear that Sarah, formerly with Price Waterhouse's Forensic Accounting Practice, is married to Jonathan Howell, head of Enforcement and Market Regulation at the London Stock Exchange. Heaven help the milkman who gets their bill wrong.

The recent defection of the Manchester and Liverpool offices from insolvency firm Leonard Curtis has also split two brothers, David and Stephen Swaden.

The Swaden family is from Manchester, and David has ended up as a Liverpool- based insolvency partner, with Stephen in a similar job at Leonard Curtis's London office. Now the 30-odd staff in the two north-western offices of Leonard Curtis have merged with BDO Stoy Hayward, following a difference of opinion about the future direction of the firm.

The brothers insist the split is amicable. David Swaden said last week: "As things stand at the moment size is paramount. BDO is traditionally strong in corporate finance."

I was hoping to get a rise out of Stephen yesterday along the lines of "size isn't everything," but sadly he was out of the office. However, a spokeswoman for assured me Leonard Curtis "cares more about staying independent".

The London side of the firm has been undergoing a changeover at the top in recent weeks. Philip Monjack, senior partner since 1983, when the original Leonard Curtis retired, has gone off to spend more time on the golf course, to be succeeded by Keith Goodman.

The lawyer from Linklaters who advised SmithKline Beecham on their failed merger attempt with Glaxo Wellcome was one Jeremy Marriage. Perhaps he should use a shotgun next time.

NatWest has swiped William Martin from Barclays Capital to be its new director of group risk, in succession to Fred Pointon. Fred will retire on 31 March after nearly 40 years with NatWest.

Mr Martin, 41, was previously head of Global Equities Risk Management at Barclays Capital, the scrag end of BZW. Before that he had stints at Hunter Douglas in Switzerland and Chemical Ban, where he worked on treasury functions world-wide for nearly 10 years.

Much as it pains me to give the bearded ballooner more publicity, Richard Branson cracked quite a good joke yesterday. Or at least Rowan Gormley, Virgin Direct's managing director, did.

Mr Gormley recalled that when Virgin Direct launched in 1995, the industry was quick to ridicule index tracking. Roger Cornick, Perpetual's marketing director, even likened Virgin's index-tracking PEP to a Skoda and Perpetual's actively managed PEP to an Aston Martin.

The Virgin Direct boss said yesterday: "Whoops, Roger - your Aston seems to have missed a gear. The Virgin PEP, which tracks the FTSE Actuaries All Share Index, has outperformed every single one of Perpetual's PEPs over the three years since Virgin Direct launched."

It turns out the Virgin PEP went up 96 per cent over that period, and the closest a Perpetual PEP got to that was 95 per cent for the Perpetual Income PEP.

To rub salt in the wound, Virgin Direct is offering Mr Cornick the services of a chaffeur- driven Skoda for a week. I couldn't get a response from Mr Cornick yesterday. Perhaps he was taking his Aston Martin for a spin.

Derek Sach, the director of corporate and institutional banking at Royal Bank of Scotland who has just helped set up Tesco Personal Finance, has been appointed a non-executive director of Associated British Ports.

Mr Sach, 49, has had a more varied career than most commercial bankers. Prior to joining Royal Bank six years ago, he was managing director (UK) of 3i Group. When he moved to the bank he quickly made a name for himself by challenging the fees paid to receivers appointed by the bank, and even put receiverships out to tender, a move which provoked howls of anguish from the accountancy fraternity.

More recently he has been actively involved in filling Tesco stores with lots of orange-coloured booths, in which shoppers are enlightened as to the delights of the Tesco Club Card.

Calluna, a Fife-based maker of hard disk drives, has appointed Ian King as group managing director with effect from this month. George Elliot, currently director of production at Calluna, has been appointed finance director, following the resignation of Donald Macdonald from that post, the company said.

Full Circle Industries said William Rooney resigned as chairman with effect from today. Alan Bell, currently chief executive, becomes executive chairman, it added.

Mr Rooney, who owns 21.13 per cent of the issued share capital of Full Circle, and his children's settlements, which hold another 17.9 per cent, have told the company that these "are long-term shareholdings and will be retained".

The company said Peter Wood, managing director of the kitchen division, is to join the main board as an executive director.