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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

MONDAY 6th MARCH 2000 (part 2); The End of NatWest!

Well, today is finally and absolutely the day.

At around 10 a.m. the NatWest header on the Intranet Home Page suddenly changes and becomes The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Messages appear from Lord Younger and Fred Goodwin. They are well-written, positive messages, with the unexpected bonus of 150 share options promised for every member of staff in the new Group. That goes down very well on TeamTalk. Younger's piece talks about a momentous occasion for two great banks and says that key appointments will be made over the next 30 days. Goodwin also talks of this appointments process, and stresses that people will be selected on merit. He talks about the RBS culture of growth and innovation, and of adding value to customers, staff and shareholders. It is a good first communication.

I try to reach Bernard (my boss) or Jim Mann, but without success. I finally get through to Richard Delbridge's secretary after lunch; Bernard was in this morning, but has gone.

Later, I get an email from him, saying he will leave at the end of April, that his departure is amicable, and passing on best wishes to everyone. He can't clarify my new reporting line but is sure it will emerge. Although in theory his departure is end April," the reality is that I will not be around much after today."

It would be silly to feel too sorry for him, given his financial situation and no doubt good prospects of another top job if he wants it, but it is a rather sad note and exit, and I can't help feeling his departure could have been handled better by RBS.

I am expecting a call to Lothbury for a senior managers' get-together, but nothing comes. The atmosphere in my office is very subdued. Lots of people seem to be out, and we have something of a flu epidemic (or is it an interview epidemic?) After several months during which time my most important role has been to try and retain a reasonable level of motivation, I'm running out of my own personal store of the stuff. I just don't have it in me to go around the Department and try to lift my team. I really should have organised a drink or something at lunchtime to "celebrate" the end of NW, but in the end today feels like the ultimate let down. That is probably inevitable given just how long this process has dragged on.

At 5 p.m. more messages appear on the Intranet. Most of the new RBS Board of Directors are appointed and the old NW Board stand down. Gordon Pell is to run the NW and RBS Retail banking divisions. That's positive; from my limited exposure, Gordon looks like good news. Ian Robertson runs the huge new Corporate/Treasury division, including Corporate Banking, GFM and Greenwich from NW. Ian previously worked for NatWest markets and left for RBS in the early 80'S. Ingrid knew him and rates him highly. Norman McLuskie will run Retail Direct, including the two Cards businesses and the RBS ventures with Tesco and Virgin. Larry Fish continues to run Citizen's in the US. These four are all main board. Cameron McPhail (guess the nationality) will run Wealth Management, including Coutts, Ian Chippendale stays in charge of Direct Line, as does Martin Wilson at Ulster. I'm pleased Martin, and indeed Ulster Bank, are staying within the Group. It is a good business with a good MD.

No real surprises there, but it is significant for us that McLuskie is doing the Retail Direct rather than the "Manufacturing " Division, which is the somewhat unusual terminology RBS use. Manufacturing includes IT, Property and Purchasing and a range of Retail "back-office" processing, including most of the NatWest RTP centres for telephony, cheque handling and so on. His previous role in RBS encompassed elements of both Direct and Manufacturing so there was some speculation which he would go for. Hence we still don't know to whom we will report.

A rumour is circulating that Mark Fisher is a strong candidate for that top Manufacturing position. Although he is a NatWest person, I'm not sure that would be good news for me. I wouldn't say we don't get on, but neither are we particularly close. I don't know if I could work for him; I don't warm to his aggressive management style. Having said that, he may be one of those people you would rather work for than have to deal with as a colleague. It would be a big promotion for him, moving up to Management Board level; he is currently about the same level as me, or maybe slightly higher, in the NW pecking order. But he is highly regarded, and may have the young, dynamic style Goodwin would see as an asset for the tough integration period ahead.

The other interesting point in the announcement is the omission of Richard Delbridge. I think there may be still some issues there, but I haven't heard anything definite. However, I am sure that they would have announced his appointment today if they could have. Ron, Sir David and Bernard have obviously gone; there is no mention of Paul Myners, so he may have too although in practice I 'm sure he will be playing somepart still in the disposal of Gartmore.

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