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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

MONDAY 7th FEBRUARY 2000; No Winners, Says the FT

There is a very thoughtful article in the FT by George Graham, probably the best piece I have seen since this all started. There will be no winners in this, it concludes. If we are bought, the integration issues are huge, the benefits may have been overstated, and these matters will occupy the new company for years at a time when the whole industry will be turned upside down by the Internet and other developments. On the other hand, if we stay independent, we will be weakened by divestments and having to return capital to shareholders. The only winners will be Lloyds and Barclays. Not very cheerful reading. I think I need to brush off my c.v.

The Evening Standard business editor has, up until now, been backing NW independence. He has felt that we deserved one more chance, and he is an admirer of the new management team. But today he changes his mind. He has talked to "some NW middle and junior managers, the sort who actually deal with customers", and they have said that the culture change needed at NatWest is huge. Only an outside influence is capable of making it happen.

The writer thinks our staff underestimate Sir David's ability to do it from within, but reluctantly concludes that we should be sold, and that BoS are the people who should win. They have a more purist banking­ focused senior management team, without all the peripheral businesses that both NatWest and RBS have to worry about. BoS also have more management depth to handle the acquisition.

I meet with Bill and Peter of Technology Services to discuss the scope of Redgrave and in particular how it fits with Peter's people who manage IT contracts and work on the technical specifications, operational issues and demand issues. My people work with them very closely, and while there are occasional turf wars, it works OK. But if we are now an arms length "supplier" as Redgrave, these issues have to be exposed and resolved.

While the meeting is very amicable, there is still an element of people protecting their areas, totally understandably, and it just confirms my view that it will be very difficult to agree a mutually acceptable scope of services for the new operation. And future relationships (if I was running the Redgrave business) will be even more difficult once I am a supplier rather than a colleague.

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