WEDNESDAY 3rd NOVEMBER 1999: The Boss Visits (and doesn't get stabbed)
Bernard Horn makes his first visit to Kings Cross to meet the purchasing team since he became my boss. He was quite upset on the phone when I suggested he should use a car rather than walk from the station- "I'm a big boy you know!" But I just have a terrible vision of the headline- "Top NatWest Bank Boss stabbed by addict outside Kings Cross". And then the quote from Bernard in hospital, "Peter Smith never told me that it was so dangerous!"
None of my team has been attacked yet in the year or so we have been here, thank God. Generally, it feels like we operate in two parallel universes in this area. There is the world of business people, and the world of the dealers, pimps and prostitutes, and the two hardly intersect most of the time. My main personal fear is not of being attacked, but of accidentally getting caught physically in the middle of a fight or a stabbing. I invariably have to walk past or through some dodgy gang of individuals on my way to the station. It would only need an argument to break out at the precise wrong moment and you would be right in the middle of it.
Anyway, it is a good visit. Bernard impresses my senior team with his evident interest in, and knowledge of, our issues. He is very keen on getting any conflicts or "political" issues out into the open, and is interested in our relationship with Group Property. Property has responsibility for the purchasing of facilities services (catering, cleaning, security), utilities and property related professional services. I am supposed to have overall functional responsibility, and the purchasing people in Group Property report in theory jointly to me and to senior property management.
However they have just decided to get rid of their last senior purchasing professional, as a continuation of their strategy of getting rid of their purchasing people, so there is no one really left for whom I can theoretically share responsibility! The head of property runs the area very well, but with a rod of iron, and is not a man to give up power lightly. He is a big man, both physically and in terms of personality. I get on fine with him, but there has always been an undercurrent of tension in terms of where property purchasing should report.
We talk about e-procurement. I suggest that we could do a press release as part of the defence process, talking about the Buyers Store, what we have done already in this area, and what we plan to do. (The Buyers Store enables NatWest users to order stationery and similar stuff through a very easy to use "point and click" Intranet electronic catalogue. We have only really got it in pilot stage at the moment, but it looks very good and we should be able to extend its use quickly.) Bernard likes the idea of the press release.