People & Business

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It must be a bit galling to finally get the top job after years of sweat, knowing that it will last for only six months. Chris Woodburn is replacing Richard Farrant as chief executive of the Securities and Futures Authority (SFA), the City's main regulator, but only until Labour's embryonic super-watchdog, NewRO, takes over next April.

Mr Woodburn will oversee the SFA's handover of authority to NewRO. After that he will be responsible for winding up what is left of the SFA until it disappears in a puff of smoke under legislation due to be passed late in 1999.

None of which will bother Mr Woodburn, who helped create the SFA's predecessor, The Securities Association (TSA). TSA was set up under the Financial Services Act 1986 and was then merged with the Association of Futures Brokers and Dealers in 1991 to form the SFA. It seems that, as far as the UK's regulators are concerned, perpetual revolution is the order of the day.

Mr Woodburn trained as an accountant with Deloitte & Co, now part of Coopers & Lybrand, and he cut his teeth as a regulator with the London Stock Exchange, which he joined in 1974. In those days people in the City were largely left to get on with it and regulation was a cottage industry.

But the important question is - who got Mr Farrant's airy and comfortable offices with their views looking north over the Thames towards St Pauls Cathedral? I hear a number of SFA insiders have their eyes on it, so Mr Woodburn had better get his skates on if he wants to stake his claim.

Congratulations to Simon Pincombe, once author of this column's forerunner, Column Eight, who has left the press office of UBS to join arch rival investment bank Deutsche Morgan Grenfell.

Simon refused to be drawn on just how much wedge he will be trousering as DMG's head of corporate communications, but jealous City sources are whispering that his package is "well north of a hundred grand". Indeed, some Forex dealers were overheard yesterday making deals in "Pincombes".

The departure of the electric guitar-playing former journalist and alpine ski legend, coming as it does so soon after that of Liza Spiro, former long-time head of communications at UBS in London, has prompted City gossip- mongers to speculate whether more far-reaching changes are afoot at the Swiss bank. With half of BZW being put up for sale, anything can happen in these days of investment banking consolidation.

Whatever, Simon says he is looking forward to working alongside Markus Will, overall boss of press relations at DMG. There's just one problem: "I'm now on five weeks' gardening leave. The only problem is I haven't got a garden."

Biotechnology analysts are moving around almost as much as biotech share prices these days. Erling Refsum, one of the most vigorous bulls of the sector, is leaving Yamaichi to join Nomura. He replaces Nick Woolf, who left Nomura to join US investment house Robertson Stephens as adviser on UK biotech companies. Mr Refsum, who was one of the biggest fans of Biocompatibles, the ill-fated coatings group whose shares fell from over pounds 14 to under pounds 5 in a few weeks when it failed to settle a key deal, is thought to be taking gardening leave. (The UK's gardens will soon be in perfect condition at this rate.) Perhaps he is waiting for share prices in the depressed sector to blossom before he starts talking up his favourite stocks.

Roger Looker will resign as chairman of RPS Group, the Abingdon, Oxfordshire- based environmental consultancy, on 23 October, in order to concentrate on his pub and restaurant interests. Dr Alan Hearne, chief executive of the company, said: "Roger concluded he had contributed everything he could to the business and now was the time to let someone else have a go." Mr Looker will be succeeded by Brook Land, a former partner of City law firm Nabarro Nathanson.

David Went is to succeed Irish Life's managing director, David Kingston, when he retires next year. Mr Went is chief executive of Coutts Group, the international private banking arm of National Westminster Bank.