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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

MONDAY 17TH JANUARY 2000; Telling the Team

We convene a Purchasing senior managers' meeting at 4.30 to tell them about Redgrave, the jv with Andersens. I start by asking them all what they think is going on and why we're meeting. They obviously have been aware that something is happening, and they go through the various rumours.

I'm leaving; we're moving back to the City (wishful thinking there I’m afraid); purchasing is changing reporting lines again. The closest guess is that we're going to be outsourced. The actual news about Redgrave and the possible implications goes down quite well, probably better than I expected. I do "sell" the concept to some extent, but I am also honest about the possible negatives, and the fact it is all still very uncertain.

They ask some of the questions I would have expected, but generally they do see the potential, particularly for developing the third-party business opportunities. There is a positive atmosphere in the meeting- one of the reasons I believe in open communication is that reality is usually preferable to rumours, which tend to focus on the worst possible case! We do have an excellent team, and spirit and camaraderie at times like this is very gratifying to observe. There is a unanimous vote to adjourn to Smithy's to "celebrate".

Smithy's a superb pub/wine bar about 400 yards from our office. It is situated in the original Blacksmith's shop of the London and General Horse Bus Garage, built in the1860's. The floor is of black mahogany and stone, and many of the old fixtures and fittings are still intact. It is very atmospheric, and one of the best places of its type in London, probably the country. It has good beer, an amazing wine list with 1OO's of bottles (including rarities such as Mexican, Swiss, and English wines, as well as a good range of vintage clarets) and excellent food, several cuts above the normal pub grub.

It was a real oasis when we first moved up from the City, as there are not too many places around Kings Cross that are safe to frequent, let alone actually enjoyable. However, just after our move, we were a little taken aback when Smithies featured in a good old-fashioned News of the World expose. An intrepid reporter (who did actually claim in traditional vein that "he had made his excuses and left" just as things were hotting up) discovered a bondage-type club running after hours at Smithy's, populated by JP's, businessmen and all those usual types who attend these events. It does seem strange that it is never shop managers, train drivers or lab assistants who get up to no good in tabloid world.

Anyway, it did not seem to do any harm to Smithy's trade; if anything, it was busier than ever after the feature. The dark, cobblestoned interior, with little alcoves, barrels, booths and old metal fittings on the walls must be the perfect setting I would imagine for a bit of light sado-masochism. Not, I would hasten to say, that I have any direct experience of the subject. I would imagine that "Senior Bank Executive" or even "Director of NatWest" would be a worthy addition to the News of the World list of depraved professions.

The proprietor of Smithy's is an elegant gentleman, always impeccably dressed, who is the perfect, polite host and runs the operation with great efficiency. He also somehow gives off an air that he is not a man to be trifled with; probably an essential quality for anyone running any business around Kings Cross, particularly one connected with drink, sex or both.

On a less interesting topic, RBS has issued a note regarding "corporate congruence". This focuses mainly on the growth and revenue opportunities, and again makes the point about successful bank mergers such as Lloyds TSB. We have responded, fairly briefly, saying they cannot add value in area like treasury, private banking or cards, and that Lloyds TSB was a substantially different deal compared to this one, particularly in terms of the branch overlap - or lack of it here.

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