The Old Lady lifts her skirts on the Internet

City Diary

John Willcock
Thursday 18 April 1996 23:02
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The Old Lady of Threadneedle Street is on the Net. The Bank of England began publishing information in its own Internet pages yesterday.

A spokeswoman said that by four o'clock in the afternoon the site had had "quite a few visitors". Anoraks all over the world - and normal people - will be able to learn about the Bank's history, its bank notes, impending publications, courses for central bankers and so on. "It's full of fascinating insights," the spokeswoman said - a trifle hopefully.

Even better news from the Bank of England. It is also planning to construct a comfy new reception area for visitors - instead of leaving them to the series of cold marble benches that presently do the job.

One of the old banking halls at the Threadneedle Street building will be converted later this year, if everything goes to plan.

Accountants Ernst & Young referred to the 1688 Bill Of Rights to win a VAT case last week on behalf of BT. Rumours that tax cases will henceforth be decided by trial by ordeal are said, however, to be unfounded.

SBC Warburg has lost yet another senior corporate finance executive, just a month after losing two other directors to rival banks. Philip Yates, SBC Warburg's joint head of UK corporate finance, has jumped ship to join Merrill Lynch in its Ropemaker Place offices off the City's Finsbury Square.

Last month Nicholas Fry, another senior SBC Warburg corporate financier, defected to NatWest markets, while Stella Coulthurst went to BZW. Sources predicted more defections then because of culture clashes with the new Swiss bosses, who are said to be more transaction- and product-driven than the traditional Warburgers. SBC Warburg will have none of this, but Mr Yates was certainly doing some important deals there.

He helped advise Bank of Ireland on its pounds 600m take-over of Bristol & West Building Society, and Cordiant's pounds 133m rights issue and refinancing. What's more, Mr Yates is an Oasis fan. All together now, "You've got to roll with it ... "

Sir Brian Jenkins is blossoming as chairman of the Woolwich, one of the building societies which plans to convert to bank status. Yesterday Sir Brian, a former Lord Mayor of London and distinguished accountant, made a joke.

At Woolwich's AGM yesterday a venerable gentleman member, dressed in a large felt hat and thick overcoat, rose during the "any questions" session and said to Sir Brian: "I hear on the BBC's Radio Four that we are going to get pounds 1,000 each [when the society converts]. Is this right?"

Sir Brian said the situation would be made clear at a later date. The member then said: "Is it near to pounds 1,000?" The chairman said they would make sure it was as much as possible.

As the rest of the membership started to shift impatiently in their seats, the questioner ploughed on, and asked why former chief executive Peter Robinson had been sacked two weeks ago, to which Sir Brian replied: "I think you should listen to Radio Four." The audience collapsed.

Wilf Dixon, a director of Executive Protection, a security firm, was recently doing research on construction company John Mowlem plc. He noticed that one its trading names, Mowlem Civil Engineering, had been struck off the register, and was up for grabs. He registered the name for himself for the pounds 90.50. He said he may use it later this year if he goes ahead with plans to build a US-style walled community of executive homes with controlled access. The subject does not amuse Mowlem, which is understandable, since companies routinely drop old names and register new ones for housekeeping.

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