Selling space to sponsors? It's beneath the Queen

BUNHILL
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The Independent Online
MAKING money out of money is, we are told, the secret to success in that strange place, the City. But even the sharp lads in Britain's merchant banks may have missed a trick or two. In California, the pin- striped brigades are proposing to do it by charging for advertising space on dollar bills. Visa/Plus ATM, part of Bank of America, says a third of Americans would support such a scheme.

The implications for the UK are staggering. Beneath Her Majesty's graceful profile is plenty of room for a tasteful Virgin plug, while the vacant thumb print in the middle of notes could be lucratively sold to Tesco or Sainsbury. The steam engine on the pounds 5 note would look well in Stagecoach's livery, while the Dingley Dell and All Muggleton cricket match on the tenner could surely be sponsored by Cornhill. Come to think of it, Britannic Assurance already makes a cameo appearance.

It's just a shame that the last English pound note is no longer around. It had an object that looked exactly like a Toblerone on it (it was one of Sir Isaac Newton's instruments, as I recall). All it would need is a wrapper, and the Treasury could enjoy a sweet influx of Swiss francs.

ON THURSDAY, Bunhill was a spectator at a remarkable do - the biggest pub quiz in the world. It was not called this of course: it was The Business Group Corporate Challenge, and the contestants were 260 executives who paid the charity Jewish Care a hundred quid each.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer braininess of the people there. Most of them knew, for example, that nephology was all to do with clouds, that monkeys wander around in shrewdnesses - although a surprising number had forgotten the date of Black Monday (blocked it out, probably - shock, you know).

If you want to know the cleverest company in Britain is, I can reveal it is Marks & Spencer. It saw off hordes of lawyers and bankers to get yet another trophy to put alongside all its other "Britain's best company" awards. The cleverest charity, of course, is Jewish Care - it pulled in pounds 250,000 in a single evening.

Stoking up the City

THE black smoke bellowing from the National Westminster Tower last week made a fine spectacle from our perch here in Bunhill Towers - I was glad to see it was settling on north London, leaving the verdant south as champagne- clear as ever. But I was surprised that so many people believed the official line that it was caused by an accidental fire on the top floor.

Anyone who is anyone in the City realises that it was just a sign that the College of Cardinals - as the board of the London Stock Exchange is commonly known - was burning wet straw to show that it had completed its first round of deliberations on who should be the next chief executive. The previous one, you may remember, was defrocked a couple of weeks ago.

This round was unsuccessful because, insiders tell me, the college could not decide between two men of honour and discretion, Horatio Bottomley and Al Capone.

Personally, I would like to see a figure who has the gravitas the Stock Exchange deserves. Billy Bunter is my choice - watch out for the white smoke and cries of "Yaroo!"

I WAS gratified to receive this letter from one of the elders of British brewing. I may be oversensitive, but I believe I detect a certain asperity.

"Dear Bunhill, With reference to your search for words with a little- known business origin: 'To be Bassed off', believed to be a bastardisation of a phrase in common usage that accurately reflects the attitude of the 76,000 employees who received average an pay rise of 2.5 per cent (source PM Programme, Radio 4) to the reported 9 per cent pay increase awarded to chairman Sir Ian Prosser (source Daily Telegraph).

Regards, William Henry Worthington."

Going to the dogs

A COUPLE of weeks ago there was a "fly-on-the wall" documentary about the John Lewis Partnership - the first time telly cameras had been allowed into its perfectly manicured portals. Not surprisingly, it had fun with some of the more bizarre aspects of the organisation. In Peter Jones, for example, dogs have always been allowed, and a "dog log" is kept showing who has cleaned up what.

Almost as entertaining is the response in the John Lewis Gazette - four pages of largely hostile comment, I'm afraid, reinforcing the dotty gentility that oozed from the film. "I was disappointed, not to say disgusted ..."; "I feel it my duty to write about the badly structured, poorly researched and generally amateurish presentation..."; "ill-con- ceived and boring".

So it is interesting to see that the partnership itself is so relaxed about the film that it bought a number of copies to loan out. The general editor of the Gazette, Miss P Junor, described it as "quirky but watchable". It certainly boosted my opinion of the company - not least because I now know I can take the dog shopping in Peter Jones.

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