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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

THURSDAY 20TH JANUARY 2000; It's Not the Money, Honest!

Steering Group meeting for Redgrave, our proposed purchasing jv with Andersens, which is fairly straightforward at this stage as there is not that much to discuss really. The Governance Group meeting that follows is more interesting. Jim Mann has set this up and chairs it, with people like our heads of HR, Audit and Risk. They are supposed to be representing NW's interest in this whole process, to make sure Andersens or indeed people like me who are potentially sitting the other side of the fence do not screw the shareholders (chance would be a fine thing...)

I am not formally a member as my interest may lie with the new venture, so I can hardly represent NatWest and negotiate against myself. But I am invited to attend anyway. Chris Wathen, the HR Director, gets very excited when I say that I am leading the "scope of services" part of the project, defining what it is that the new venture should do and which activities should stay within NatWest.

He seems to think that my "scope of services” is going to be a bid for me or my new "company" to rule the world. I don't think he understands how purchasing currently interacts with HR; we help them doing contracts for training, temps, BUPA etc, but it works well and we have clearly defined areas of responsibility. Nothing much will change in terms of scope under Redgrave.

I say that I will be putting a draft scope to this team; but he thinks even that gives me an advantage in that I can bias it in a particular direction. I feel like suggesting, in that case, he might like to draft the f****** scope of services himself as long as he can do it in the next two weeks, just as we have to. I remember just in time that he will be signing off my bonus in the next few days and cowardice kicks in as usual.

Royal Bank of Scotland issued an announcement yesterday heralding their leading position in terms of Internet banking. This was based on a survey done in October last year, which of course is practically prehistoric in Internet terms. Our response today invites shareholders to visit both sites and make their own judgement (which seems a very sensible suggestion), and also describes our own initiatives.

In truth, we have been slow in the retail market, but the tie-up we have with Yahoo! now is genuinely good and we have the potential to overtake some of the earlier entrants. In the Corporate banking market, we are market leaders with BankLine - but we have not been very good at shouting about this success. Coutts has also launched an Internet private banking service, designed to be so simple, even the below-stairs scullery maid can use it. Only joking, Coutts customers these days are more likely to be getting their roadie, agent, or personal trainer to assist.

The press comment is fairly mixed at the moment, not to say confused. One analyst goes public with the view that we will escape; others still think the likelihood is that we will lose, but opinion is split as to whether RBS or BoS will succeed.

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