View from City Road: Rawlins ruffles some feathers

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IF THE Stock Exchange were a football team then Peter Rawlins, the chief executive, would be feeling distinctly uncomfortable after Andrew Hugh Smith, the chairman, and non-executive directors of the exchange gave him their full support at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

Annoying one group is easy. Infuriating two or three is not difficult. But exasperating half a dozen requires dedication. It is said that Mr Rawlins has managed this feat.

Market makers are unhappy about the prospect of introducing order-driven systems in parts of the market. Registrars are miserable about delays to Taurus that are costing them money. Private client firms are worried about being put out of business by rolling settlement. Big firms are impatient about segmenting the market into two, a European wholesale market and a domestic market, which has been talked about for more than two years.

There is also unhappiness about events within the Stock Exchange itself. In a memo sent to staff last week Mr Rawlins said the system of three divisions, which he introduced soon after taking charge, was to be replaced by five groupings. He also said the three divisions had been introduced as a transitional measure, something that few people were aware of at the time.

Staff are on the move. Rod Margree is going back to Barclays, Jane Barker is effectively becoming chief operating officer and Richard Balarkas is leaving unexpectedly.

Other complaints are more familiar. Repeated delays over Taurus, and consequent extra costs, are an open sore. The appointment of Andersen Consulting to run the exchange's computers is also causing unhappiness among those who remember that Mr Rawlins once worked for Arthur Andersen.

But Mr Rawlins, who admittedly can be abrasive, has embarked on the modernisation of an old-fashioned club and his work has been largely successful.

The exchange's head count has come down from more than 3,000 to 1,780. It is focusing on business issues such as London's share of European share trading, and it has abolished individual membership. These are significant achievements.

It is not surprising that Mr Rawlins has occasionally become unpopular updating the exchange. It would be worrying if he has so damaged his relationships with colleagues, member firms and investors that he can no longer work with them.

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