PEOPLE & BUSINESS

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Quintin Price stormed out of HSBC James Capel as its head of pan- European research yesterday, smarting that he hadn't been appointed successor to Jim O'Donnell, who resigned unexpectedly as the investment bank's chief executive officer earlier this week to become a priest. Instead Krishna Patel, Mr O'Donnell's deputy, took over the latter's responsibilities.

The investment bank's chairman, Peter Letley, said last night: "You appoint somebody to a new job and people assess their careers, and sometimes they decide its time to move on.

"There are 6,500 people in this bank and we have to get on with it with the staff we've got. I don't know where Mr Price is going. Our departmental heads all remain in place, and they will answer to Mr Patel. There will be no reshuffle."

Mr Letley recalled that Mr O'Donnell had said from the start that he eventually wanted to become a priest. "We always expected him to go into the church. It was the timing - we weren't expecting it so soon," said the chairman.

Neither, obviously, was Mr Price, who was not available for comment last night.

Howard Davies, head of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), excelled himself as a stand-up comedian at the NAPF autumn conference this week at the QEII Conference Centre.

The City's answer to Ben Elton told the audience: "You can be fairly sure that Bernie Ecclestone was not mis-sold a pension in the mid-1980s. If he had been, government policy would have been changed on the spot."

He followed up with : "I hope some time the FSA will be as respected a set of initials as the BBC, IBM or MAM. Then maybe someone will buy us and make us unimaginably rich."

He rounded off by referring to a later speaker at the conference, Frank Field, the Minister for Welfare Reform, "or Minister for Warfare with the Treasury, as he is colloquially known."

Andrew Dilnot, head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, got caught up in the tide of irreverence, saying he "wouldn't tolerate people being distracted by lesser events over the road". Mr Dilnot was referring to our Monarch's Golden Wedding anniversary celebrations at Westminster Abbey. Off with his head, I say.

Mr Howard's next big adventure starts next week when he heads up a British Invisibles four day visit to China to bang the drum for Britain, accompanied by Lord Hurd of Westwell. The dynamic duo are taking 31 UK business bods with them to push the theme: "Open Markets - The Mutual Benefit." Let's hope they can calm Chinese nerves over the Hong Kong market's roller-coaster ride since the handover.

Perhaps messrs Howard and Hurd should take along Sir Leonard Appleyard, ambassador to China until the beginning of this month, who was snapped up yesterday by Barclays Capital as a director and senior adviser.

Sir Leonard, 59, became ambassador in September 1994, and before that he held senior posts in Moscow, Hungary and New Delhi. He read classical Chinese at Cambridge, which I suppose means he's a mandarin who can speak Mandarin. No doubt he'll get on well with Sir Peter Middleton, Barclays Capital's chairman and another former Whitehall stalwart.

Continuing the Oriental theme, David Price, who was yesterday appointed a non-executive director of the Scottish American Investment Company (Saints), was born in China in 1947. After Oxford in he joined the old SG Warburg in 1969. As he worked his way up, he also became a director of Mercury Asset Management in 1978. He left as deputy chairman of MAM this June. I do hope Mr Price doesn't regret his timing, as he reads about the pounds 14m windfall for MAM chairman Hugh Stevenson, courtesy of Merrill Lynch's pounds 3bn takeover.

I hadn't realised that Mr Stevenson began his career 30 years ago as a solicitor with City law firm Linklaters & Paines (now redubbed Linklaters). Linklaters have been advisers to Merrill Lynch for some time in the UK. It was with complete surprise therefore that their senior partners read in the press this week that legal advisers to Merrills during the acquisition talks were Freshfields, their City rivals. Perhaps Merrills thought there was a potential conflict of interest due to Mr Stevenson's past. Whatever the reason, its a brutal world out there.

The Dutch top brass at ING have poached Indian-born Arjun Mathrani from Chase Manhattan in New York to head up the ING Barings investment banking operation, based in London. Mr Mathrani will report to the present head of ING Barings, Marinus Minderhoud, who is returning to head office in Amsterdam to be chairman of the investment bank.

The Dutch are delighted to have lured such a heavyweight to manage the business, which has grown from 4,000 people to 9,000 employees since the beginning of the year. Originally the bones of Barings, bought for pounds 1 after the Leeson episode, ING Barings now includes great chunks of what was ING's international businesses, and Mr Mathrani has been brought in to knock it all into shape.

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