Mutuality hero steps back from his cause

John Wriglesworth: Setting up his own consultancy;

John Willcock
Thursday 04 September 1997 23:02

What's left of the mutual building society sector is aghast at the news that John Wriglesworth, the self-styled champion of mutuality against the dark forces of conversion, has deserted Bradford & Bingley building society for the verdant pastures of his own "strategic communications consultancy". If Mr Wriglesworth's leaving, of all people, then surely B&B and the rest are about to surrender to the carpetbaggers?

"No, no, no, Bradford & Bingley are absolutely committed to staying mutual. My leaving does not mean they are going to convert," Mr Wriglesworth assures me. "It was all amicable. Bradford & Bingley are going to be one of my first clients."

Mr Wriglesworth will leave his job as director of marketing in October to launch his own London-based consultancy. He will not have to move house, he says, although he's flogging his flat in Yorkshire. He has a home in Clapham, south London.

Mr Wriglesworth, 40, joined B&B three years ago from UBS, where he was just about the only person you could phone for a quote on the state of the building society market.

Bizarrely, Mr Wriglesworth is also a former champion of demutualisation, having drawn up the master plan for Abbey National's conversion into a bank in 1989. Before that he had been an academic, an economics lecturer and admissions tutor.

"If any societies are thinking of converting, they should call me up first and I'll save them," he says. "Staying mutual is not a dead duck or a disaster. This lemming-like stampede to become banks will come to a sticky end, with converted societies being asset stripped."

Shy and retiring former Eurotunnel boss Sir Alastair Morton has got a new part-time job advising the ABB-Daimler Benz rail joint venture, Adtranz. But it isn't the "last big job" observers expected him to take when he stood down from chunnel company last October.

Instead Sir Alastair intends spending one-third of his time on Adtranz, one-third on a project as yet unannounced and the rest on various bits and pieces.

He says: "I had six months off after leaving Eurotunnel - I travelled to Antarctica, South and Central America, the South Pacific and South Africa. I spent most of the time just watching the world go by. It was very relaxing after 10 years in Eurotunnel.

"I'm now collecting a portfolio of jobs that interest me, such as transport, the structuring of major projects."

This sounds suspiciously like Sir Alastair mellowing with old age. I still forecast another big job at some point.

Some of the 100-odd guests at Merrill Lynch's 10th annual clients' dinner at Cliveden on Wednesday found it a bit of a struggle keeping up with the after-dinner speaker, Mikhail Gorbachev. Apparently the former Soviet premier came on at 11pm and proceeded to give his thoughts on Russia, China and world affairs for a full hour, via an interpreter. The institutional investors were dropping like flies towards the end, I hear, despite the excellence of the speech.

Not to worry, everyone left happy, with one attendee describing the sumptuous feast at the stately home-turned-hotel as "the do of the decade". Former Smith New Court boss Michael Marks hosted the event in his new role as Merrill's chief operating officer for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, while his old number two at Farringdon Road, Paul Roy, also gave a short speech.

While Sir Desmond Pitcher continues to fight for his corporate life at United Utilities, one of his directors is defecting to Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. Simon Bird, United's executive director of international operations, is joining the Liverpool company as commercial director. Mersey Docks and Harbour is in the depths of a bitter dockers' strike. Sounds like a case of out of the frying pan, into the fire.

UBS has lost its global head of research, Nigel Lester, to Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, which has appointed him director of marketing and client services for its equities division. Mr Lester left UBS two months ago and the Swiss bank has yet to decide how to replace him. At Kleinwort he will be in charge of the "client visiting programme" which sounds like a lot of flying around and a lot of dinners.

Former Wall Street high-flyer Bob Diamond has made such a splash at BZW since he joined as chief executive of global markets in July 1996 that he's been promoted to the Barclays Bank executive committee.

A spokesperson for the investment bank said Mr Diamond had "streamlined the business and relaunched the team" since he arrived from CSFB in New York.

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