THURSDAY 27TH JANUARY 2000; Bank of Scotland Tries Again
Before the Redgrave steering meeting, I have an interesting chat with Jim Mann. I have been puzzled as to why Jim is trying to push more work into Technology Services, which performs some Group activities but sits within Retail from a reporting point of view. This appears to be weakening Jim's own power base in his central group role. But all is becoming clear. Jim has talked to Gordon Pell, who does not want a large IT Group sitting in his Retail Bank.
Hence IT may well move into the central Group organisation, probably under Jim! Hence the more he gets into Technology Services now, the less Gordon may want it to stay there, and the bigger the operation which Jim then gets to run. My admiration for Jim has grown considerably during this process, and clearly I have more to learn about the Machiavellian side of organisational politics. And there are some masters (not just Jim by any means) in NatWest.
The steering meeting is fine. The project work is all going to plan, although I am a little worried about the time it is taking to sort out the legal and tax structure of the new operation. Until that is clearer, we can't tell the staff who they will actually work for, and therefore what the pension arrangements and so on are likely to be.
Bank of Scotland announces an increased, or at least a revised, offer. Instead of a rather uncertain return of £1.20 a share once they have sold a few businesses, they are now offering a sort of loan note with a firmer pay out in late 2000 or mid 2001. We continue to rubbish the bid, saying they keep changing their minds about IT strategy, the nature of the special dividend, and whether or not to link up with one major pension provider. However, there is the smallest hint of a softer approach in that Sir David does state that some of the changes are in the right direction.
The immediate media comment on this is that it resolves one element of confusion in their bid, but it is not the final move; the expectation is that BoS will come back with an increased offer on Monday.
I am carrying out the annual performance interviews with my team; generally they are happy, and J is in particularly ebullient mood during our meeting today. I would hate to have to give her a negative review, so luckily for me she has had a genuinely good year and we have a pleasant discussion rather than pistols at ten paces.