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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

TUESDAY 15TH FEBRUARY 2000; For Sale - One Head Office

I wake with a bit of a headache, but nothing too drastic considering my much-reduced tolerance to alcohol these days. Get into the office at a reasonable time for a Senior Management Team meeting to discuss how we position ourselves for the arrival of RBS. Obviously people are a bit worried, but generally there is still a good positive attitude.

We agree that we will need to tell them what we have achieved, and what we can do going forward. I stress we have to "sell" ourselves - for instance, if Fred Goodwin (by some chance) has a wander around our office, I don't want a junior buyer saying they're not very busy, or that they've never read our policy handbook. M gets a bit worked up at my comments; I think he feels that as we are so much bigger (and, arguably) better than RBS purchasing, this is all unnecessary. Surely it will be obvious to anybody that we are vital to the future success of the new business?

He does tend to see everything in very black and white terms, which is often but not always a strength. I have to remind him that although we might all agree with him, we have to face up to the fact that NatWest did actually lose the battle. We are the defeated army, and it is not unreasonable to expect that RBS will believe they are better than us in some sense. And purchasing will be no different from any other business area.

The papers today are reporting Sir George Mathewson's visit to Lothbury yesterday to meet our senior team. He is not concerned about the fall in the share price; the whole sector is out of favour. Fred Goodwin promises the integration will be collaborative; "from day one, everyone becomes a Royal Bank person." This all sounds very friendly, but according to The Times, Mathewson also says that a buyer will be sought for Lothbury as quickly as possible.

The Times commentary column has a rather scathing little piece, saying that this dilemma (of what to do with Lothbury) illustrates why investors don't like banks at the moment. The bidders were fighting to control property, including branches, lots of which must eventually close. It finishes- "Rarely in financial history can so many clever people have wasted so much ridiculously expensive brainpower to achieve such a negative result."

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