THIS past year hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for corporate financiers, with company IPOs dropping like flies – particularly in the first half of the year – as nervous investors quaked in their boots.

But in that kind of climate, of course, the best really do stand out – and many company advisers would do well to take a leaf out of the book of Nicola Marrin at Seymour Pierce, who last night received the corporate financier of the year award from the ICAEW at a ceremony at the Mansion House.

Marrin, the first female winner of the award, follows in the footsteps of distinguished previous winners such as Terry Smith in 2004, then chief executive of Collins Stewart, and Merrill Lynch’s head of UK M&A in 2007, Kevin Smith.

Marrin’s big break came this year when she led the team on SuperGroup’s £395m flotation in March, on which Seymour Pierce acted as sole sponsor, financial adviser and bookrunner – and she has a few words of wisdom for company executives who reckon they need a roster of bank advisers as long as their arms to get an IPO away successfully.

“Quite apart from the strength of SuperGroup’s management, it really helped that there was only one corporate finance adviser – on bigger transactions, there’s often lots of jostling for position,” Marrin tells me. “On bigger deals you’re going to need more than one adviser, clearly, but this goes to show you don’t need a cast of thousands to make it a success.”

Are you listening, Ocado?

Actor Leslie Phillips has had his fair share of decent roles over the years, starring in a number of the Carry On films, as well as recent parts in the likes of The Jackal, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, The Changeling and Hanif Kureshi’s 2007 film Venus, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA for best supporting actor.

However, The Capitalist learns he’s soon to add a rather different title to his collection – that of the Freedom of the City of London, which he is due to receive at the Guildhall later this month. Of course, fellow Carry On star Barbara Windsor also received the Freedom earlier this year, placing Phillips in good company. Ding dong!

City law firm DLA Piper held a breakfast debate yesterday on the thorny topic of employee relations, with panel members ranging from the CBI’s Jim Bligh and Labour MP Paul Farrelly to DLA Piper’s David Bradley and the CIPD’s employee relations adviser Mike Emmott.

During a heated discussion chaired by City A.M.’s own deputy editor David Hellier, Farrelly (pictured above) insisted trade union laws didn’t need tightening to improve the chances of a strikeless future and warned that tinkering with the law could inflame relations.

Bligh, on the other hand, argued there should be no less than 11 changes to the UK’s legal framework, such as raising the threshold for industrial action to take into account the voting turnout, and allowing both unions and employers to send concise statements out with ballot papers to set out the scope, nature and reason for the dispute.

Fittingly, though all the panel members managed to get to the venue through the transport chaos, yesterday’s impeccably-timed Tube strike meant almost half the expected attendees were unable to find their way there in time…