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  • Peter Smith

THURSDAY 24th FEBRUARY 2000; Troublemaker? Me??

Meet Paul Cartwright of Andersen's (AC) to discuss their final Redgrave report and business case. Paul very cautiously (he doesn't want to upset the AC/NW corporate relationship by being seen to try and poach staff) intimates that if things don't work out for me in the new world of RBS, Andersen's would definitely be interested in talking to me - there is so much going on in the Procurement world, particularly "e" stuff, and there may be opportunities.


At a time when we are feeling a little vulnerable, it is good to know you are wanted. He also says that AC have found no correlation between actual work performance and psychometric test results. The only proven indicator is 0-level results; a better predictor than degree outcome or anything else. I am debating whether to refuse to do the RBS selection tests if I am asked to do so; I think they are an inappropriate way to treat senior managers and I don't really believe in them.

Jim Mann sends me a copy of a strange note where Chris Wathen explains his negative feelings about Redgrave. Chris has sent it to Jim and Bernard, but not to me. Ironically, he shares many of my concerns about Redgrave yet also seems to be attacking me quite personally. He also thinks it is "unhealthy" that I have pushed for the staff to have some equity in Redgrave, which seems surprising as equity for staff is a key part of NW's own reward strategy, which I assume Chris was in charge of developing. I will have to draft a suitably sarcastic response.


I speak to Bernard on the phone. He more or less says he is going - he has had no personal contact whatsoever from RBS, which seems wrong even if they don't see a long-term role for him. He does have 35 years experience, huge knowledge of NW and he is main board. But it isn't just him- apparently Sir David has also had little recent contact. RBS seem to be working largely through Richard and directly with MD's and functional heads like me.


HR have been asked to provide huge amounts of data, down to the level of how many mobile phones each department has! RBS want Richard to stay, but Bernard believes he is setting tough conditions. Knowing Richard this will not be for himself (the M&S suits, holidays in the Lakes and medium size Volvo all suggest money is not his prime motivator!) but will be around how things are run, what role the Finance Director will play and similar issues.


Bernard suggests I should respond to the Wathen note. Yes, I reply, I thought I would go round and punch him.


"Something a bit more considered might be better."


I suppose Chris and I might both stay, so I better not burn any bridges, I say. No, Bernard thinks it most unlikely that Chris will be staying. So perhaps physical violence is not such a bad idea...what does seem sad is that, even as we disappear off into the sunset, there is still this in-fighting between NatWest senior managers. The old habits die hard.


At lunchtime I meet with the PwC headhunter handling the BBC job. She says all the right things about how they want to make purchasing more strategic, the pressure they are under to achieve greater efficiency and so on. They are installing SAP although she doesn't know much of the detail in terms of the impact on purchasing. We seem to get on well; she says there are other people to see but she thinks I could be a good fit. From my point of view I think it is still doubtful I would want the job. But it is worth pursuing - in my experience it is generally worth seeing the company, not just the headhunter, before you make a definite decision.


Jim Mann pops in on his way to Euston. I tell him my feelings about Redgrave, and to my surprise we have a very "touchy-feely" conversation about personality, motivation, management style and feelings. He seems quite relaxed about my decision and we discuss how to present Redgrave to RBS. We agree we can't sell it too hard, at least not as something they should do immediately. But we should try and keep momentum in terms of some of the things we've identified as critical, like bringing Accounts Payable together with purchasing. Jim thinks we should recommend that AC still play a role given the amount that will need doing. I tend to agree, but I am a little cautious given the comments I have heard about Fred Goodwin not wanting to rely on consultants for the integration process.


Jim then tells me he has to go off to a British Badminton Association meeting; apparently he is a Board member and a highly qualified coach. And (I guess) he was a very good player; although I must admit I was so surprised at this hidden talent, that I didn't ask him about his own career. He has coached our top junior who is best in the world at his age group. Hidden depths; it is amazing how people continuously surprise you. You just don't think of short, tough Scotsmen as badminton stars! Mr. Mann has gone up in my estimation yet again.

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