GOVERNANCE TRAINSPOTTERS GET KNICKERS IN A TWIST OVER FLINT

IT’S been a tiring week for HSBC, which is currently juggling the handling of a full-scale management game of musical chairs, the fallout from its leaky succession-planning AND a band of disgruntled sticklers for corporate governance among its shareholder base.

So it’ll come as a welcome surprise for the bank to learn that a conservative core of its investors remains as married as HSBC itself to the bank’s traditional policy of appointing management from within.

Corporate governance concerns have centred around the appointment of the finance director to the chairman’s position – particularly as Douglas Flint has worked so closely in the past with new chief executive Stuart Gulliver – and the practical problems associated with the geographic separation of the chairman in London and the chief in Hong Kong. (The latter, of course, has been a problem for far longer – with Standard Life’s head of corporate governance Guy Jubb raising the issue, along with his concerns over board remuneration, at the group’s AGM back in May. “Our experience and sharpened sense of stewardship suggests to us that the arrangement is not sustainable,” Jubb warned.)

But one large investor The Capitalist chatted to yesterday, who wished to proffer his support to the bank’s embattled board anonymously, hit back at the boffins with the rule book. “This is bureaucracy gone mad – who cares!” he roared. “If the finance director is the best person to be chairman, then so be it – and sucks to the legions of trainspotters in the City getting their knickers in a twist.”
That’s told’em.

MAKING A DEBUT

Despite less-than-enthusiastic reviews from critics, the second Wall Street movie, “Money Never Sleeps”, managed to clean up on its opening weekend at the US box office.

The film made $19m (nearly £12m) at US cinemas – hardly a record-breaker in itself, but not at all shabby for director Oliver Stone, representing the biggest gross debut weekend of his career, behind the $18.7m opening of World Trade Center.

And for Michael Douglas – aka the film’s star “Gordon Gekko”, it’s his second-biggest debut ever, behind You, Me and Dupree’s $21m.

FINGER SALUTE

The Italians aren’t exactly known as a nation of shrinking violets, but a new sculpture erected in front of the Milan Stock Exchange has challenged even their free-and-easy attitude to life.

The sculpture, which stands 11 metres high and is called “L.O.V.E.”, features a hand with the middle finger sticking up in the traditional gesture of profanity.

It is part of a retrospective dedicated to the work of contemporary Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, labelled “Against Ideologies”. It’s not the first time Cattelan has courted controversy, either – his work includes a sculpture of Pope John Paul being hit by a meteorite, as well as an installation of three baby puppets hanging from the branch of a tree – both of which, unsurprisingly, have provoked heated protests in the past.

Luckily for the financial workers at the Italian exchange, Cattelan insists the hand sculpture is meant more as an “act of love” than a middle-finger-up to the banking villains-du-jour…

BRAGGING RIGHTS

Ping! In zooms an invitation to a whole host of debates being organised by Mayor of London Boris Johnson as part of the Story of London festival at the beginning of October – including one, the first of the bunch, on the role of the City.

“Bankers and Bonuses: What has the City ever done for London?” is its acerbic title, and it will feature, among others, entrepreneur Luke Johnson, financial journalist Daniel Ben-Ami (author of “Cowardly Capitalism: The Myth of the Global Financial Casino”) and… musician Billy Bragg.

That’s
the same Billy Bragg who earlier this year threw his penny’s worth into the debate by refusing to pay his taxes unless the government acted to curb RBS bonuses. Should turn out to be an insightful spectacle, then…

RUNNERS AND RIDERS

Something of a fillip for Nationwide chief executive Graham Beale, who Paddy Power has decided is top of the list of runners and riders to succeed Eric Daniels as the next chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group.

The bookie has Beale at 5/2, with Lloyds insider favourite Helen Weir coming in at 11/4.

Former trade minister and Standard Chartered boss Lord Davies and RBC boss Gordon Nixon are at 4/1 and 6/1 respectively.

Given those odds, it might bode well to have a quick flutter on ex-Barclays retail and
commercial banking boss Fritz Seegers, considered a top contender by the City but looking long with at 12/1.

Or perhaps former JP Morgan Cazenove chief executive Naguib Kheraj, who doesn’t get a look-in with Paddy at all?