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  • Writer's picturePeter Smith

WEDNESDAY 16th FEBRUARY 2000; The British Library and First Contact with RBS

We spend a couple of hours with Andersen looking at the emerging Redgrave business case. It looks quite good, although it can't take account of some of the intangible factors that have worried me. The strength of the case rests on a number of key factors including better use of existing purchasing deals, and more efficient processes for ordering and payment. Another is what Andersen's can bring in terms of their knowledge and experience in a few key supply markets like IT and Travel - by working in partnership, can we get a better deal for NW on PC's, transatlantic flights etc.

We are doing a carefully controlled comparison, adjudicated by our Audit staff, to see whether this holds water. Of course, neither the Andersen guys nor I have any idea whether we are now wasting our time on this. They still have some hope that RBS might want to continue with the initiative.

I feel the need for some fresh air and a break at lunchtime, so I stroll along to The British Library. I haven't been in further than the entrance hall before, but today I spend ten minutes inside. It is a real surprise; exceptionally interesting, and I wish I'd come before. The main public display includes amazing ancient books and manuscripts, going back over a thousand years. I suppose that's pretty obvious givenit is a library!

But I hadn't really thought about it, and some of the stuff is of quite awesome historical, scientific or artistic importance. There are also unexpected pleasures like sound archives, with everything from poets reading their work to strange African chants, and a "hands-on" exhibition of printing and print. Ginny would love this- we must bring her here at Easter.

Richard Delbridge calls to say that he and Fred Goodwin have given the OK for me to start talking to the RBS Head of Purchasing. Shortly afterwards he calls. Ironically, he is about the only purchasing head from a major financial services company whom I have never previously met. He seems very pleasant and conciliatory, and comments that there is also much uncertainty at RBS with staff just as unsure of their future as at NW.

They have seen a staff video where Fred talks to Kirsty Wark (or is it one of the other frighteningly clever and attractive Scottish interviewers? I hope it might be Kirsty Young, whose performance singing "Fever" on Celebrity Stars in their Eyes was undoubtedly one of the great moments in TV history.) Fred emphasises that they mustn’t think of this as a victory; we are all in this together now. He arranges to come down next week.

My secretary gets a call from HR asking if I have an up to date c.v. I assume they are providing RBS details of NW senior management. Strangely enough I just happen to have one I made earlier sitting here in my top drawer...

After work, I rush over to Regent Street for a drink with a colleague – he was Purchasing Director for NW Group Vehicle Services until last autumn when he was made redundant following one of the many bits of internal cost-saving restructuring. He is half an hour late. The bus in front of his broke down and then the two drivers had a lengthy argument about whether his bus would take the passengers from the other bus. The joys of public transport in London (part 23,857).

He's now working on contract for an ex-NatWest purchasing director who now runs National Savings purchasing, which is largely about managing one supplier, as the entire operational side has been outsourced to Siemens. It seems to be working very well, unlike some of the other big government PFI type projects. He reckons there is plenty of consultancy and interim management work around for good purchasing people - about £600 a day for longer assignments, £1000 a day for short­ term stuff. It is all quite reassuring given I could be out of work by March.

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