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The Times: City Diary: Hard to swallow

The Times April 26, 2006

City Diary

Hard to swallow

By Caroline Merrell

ROYAL Dutch Shell, the oil giant that earlier this year announced record annual profits, has taken the opportunity of a little cost-cutting at its London headquarters. The free lunches enjoyed by staff at the canteen have been axed. An astonishing decision given that the soaring oil price looks set to bring in another year of record earnings at the group.

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POLITICAL correctness seems to have broken out at one of London’s top legal firms. Nearly all the City’s lawyers now have people in charge of “diversity” — to the uninitiated that means ensuring that recruitment programmes include enough women and people from different ethnic backgrounds. Herbert Smith, however, has gone one step further, and has hired its first inclusivity manager. What does it mean? And how does it differ from a diversity manager?

A big ask

RICHARD SAUNDERS, chief executive of the Investment Management Association, yesterday received a sharp lesson in how parliamentary processes work from Jim Cousins at a hearing of the Treasury Select Committee. Asked by the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central whether his association’s members would help to provide a national pensions savings scheme even if the Government failed to reform state pensions, the mild-mannered chief executive ventured to say that he would “answer a slightly different question, if I may”. “The purpose of parliamentary scrutiny is that you answer the question put to you,” Mr Cousins fired back. That was him told.

JAMES EDEN, banking analyst at DKW who grabbed headlines by labelling Sir Fred Goodwin, the chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland, a megalomaniac, has helped to produce another surreal note, this time on Lloyds TSB. It opens: “While West Ham is destined for FA Cup glory on May 13, the Lloyds TSB share price has tumbled 52p, 9 per cent in just 33 days.” In the same vein it adds that: “ ‘Then Like My Dreams They Fade And Die’ is a line from the popular song, I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles written by Jaan Kenbrovin, but better known as the club anthem of FA Cup finalists, West Ham United.” Mr Eden denies that West Ham’s success has pushed him over the edge. He says: “Actually that’s my colleague’s contribution. He bores me senseless talking about them 24/7.”

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