Driven to distraction
Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey was on jovial form at this week’s virtual conference of TheCityUK, the promotional group for all things Square Mile. Before warming to his theme of post-Covid investment, he warmed up his audience with an anecdote about his time as private secretary to former governor Eddie George. Accompanying his boss to a meeting with former foreign secretary Douglas Hurd, about relaunching TheCityUK’s predecessor body, called — unhelpfully — British Invisibles, Bailey recalled how he regretted taking the official car the short distance from Threadneedle Street to Hurd’s then office at NatWest on Bishopsgate. Bailey, forced to get out of the vehicle into heavy traffic, was powerless to prevent George from striding mistakenly into an adjacent NatWest branch and announcing to a cashier “I am the governor of the Bank of England and I am here to see Douglas Hurd.” Bailey just made it through the door to hear Sir Eddie being told: “You’re winding me up, mate!” Bailey’s tale went unreported in the one newspaper that used to chronicle “British Invisibles”, though. City Insider wonders if that’s because it was too close to an anecdote about the newspaper’s own former business editor. On being appointed, he apparently took his chauffeur-driven Rolls to the paper’s City office, marched out of the lift and delivered a rousing pep-talk on journalistic rigour, before being driven to lunch. Immediately afterwards, a bemused group of cleaners and receptionists asked themselves “Who the **** was that?” And why didn’t he take the lift to the newsroom floor?
Jonathan Gaisman QC
Loss for words
Insurance companies’ barristers were at their eloquent best at the Supreme Court this week. In seeking to quash rulings that their clients should pay out to businesses for Covid losses, they employed some delicious phrasing. Where Gavin Kealey QC had tickled the lower court by musing whether, as a blacksmith, one might make “weather vanes and goodness knows what from one’s drawing room”, this time Jonathan Gaisman QC had M’Lords question the meaning of lockdown announcements given “the prime minister’s notorious taste for euphemy” and distinguish between cover for local nuisances and wider pandemics given “the discovery of mouse droppings in a leisure centre is not an external emergency”. But most entertaining was the insight into QC lifestyles afforded by their hypotheticals for assessing business lost. They considered “a gunsmith only able to answer the telephone”; “a golf club permitted to reopen its course but not its clubhouse”, and “a restaurant affected by fire but where the Michelin-starred chef was about to give notice”. Evidently, in certain niche sectors, even insurance lawyers are sympathetic to claimants’ little problems . . .
While the pandemic has led many to abandon outdated business practices, there is one place where the clock has been wound back: the FTSE 100 boardroom. Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles has found that since the onset of Covid-19, 95 per cent of blue-chip CEO hires have been male — up from 93 per cent in 2019 and 91.8 per cent in 2018. But the global managing partner of H & S’s financial services practice, Jenni Hibbert, says this “retrenchment” will be temporary. Looking forward, in-demand candidates will be those who have been “leading through moments not in the playbook”. In other words, not those who look at home in a 1970s history book.
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