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'Superwoman' makes City comeback

Superwoman is back. Nicola Horlick, the pounds 1m-a-year mother-of-five fund manager who flounced out of Morgan Grenfell Asset Management in January, is almost certain to join a new London investment management house being set up by French giant Societe Generale.

She will work with John Richards, the 36-year-old head of UK institutional investment at Mercury Asset Management whose appointment was announced yesterday.

The appointment of Ms Horlick so soon after her high-profile departure from MGAM raised eyebrows in the City yesterday. The public spat between Ms Horlick and her previous employer was seen as extremely damaging to the reputation of the City and the bank, but especially to her.

Although the terms of her contract are still being discussed, Patrick Pagni, chief executive of SocGen's embryonic London operation, said yesterday: "Prospects are reasonably favourable she will join."

He said he had not been put off by the style of her departure from MGAM: "We are confident she will not put off potential fund managers or potential clients. She is a highly respectable woman."

Mr Pagni said Mr Richards, one of the most senior managers at MAM, had been given a brief to build up a meaningful presence in London for SocGen, where it has no fund management operation. In France, Societe Generale is the leading asset management business with about 10 per cent of the mainly bond-driven institutional investment market.

Philippe Collas, chairman and chief executive of SGAM, said: "The asset management market has seen unprecedented growth in the 1990s. We look forward to building a team with the skills and experience to develop a major asset management presence for SocGen in the UK market."

Spokesmen for MAM and Morgan Grenfell played down fears that SocGen was poised to poach its best fund managers.

The appointment of Mr Richards and Ms Horlick reunites the two 14 years after they started their City careers at MAM as graduate trainees. Equally successful, they have very different profiles after Ms Horlick was suspended then resigned from MGAM, accused of attempting to poach a team to defect to rival ABN Amro Hoare Govett.