11 NOVEMBER 2000, Page 32


Time to do good by stealth to the Stock Exchange don't call us, we'll call you


The City has its own equivalent of a royal command. This is a telephone call from the Bank of England to set up a meeting with the Governor, who says, 'There's something we want you to do for us.' So Ian Hay Davison heard the call to clean up Lloyd's of London, Sir Alastair Morton to dig the Channel Tun- nel, and Brian Williamson to give the finan- cial futures exchange, Liffe, the kiss of life. This is known within the Bank as doing good by stealth, and no institution is in more urgent need of having good done to it than the Stock Exchange. It has been on and off the worry list ever since Taurus, its attempt at a computerised settlement system, implod- ed. The chairman carried on, the chief execu- tive carried the can and the Bank had to step in and tidy things up. Since then two more chief executives have gone the same way, and the chairman, Don Cruickshank, is doubling up the job while standing by to repel board- ers. When he arrived in the spring, never having broked a stock in his life, he at once put the Exchange's shirt and his own on the fix called iX, which would have rolled it up into Deutsche BOrse and left the plausible Werner Seifert to run it. There was no alter- native, he told the Exchange's members. The bold Swedes who bid for it showed that there was, iX came unfiXed, the chief executive performed his ritual function, and Mr Cruickshank was left on the bridge. The Exchange, so he now tells his members, can stand on its own feet. Having snubbed Nas- daq of New York and then told it to wait for two years to join iX, he seems to be warming to it, but Nasdaq is not necessarily warming to him. With all his experience, he has found himself in the wrong job at the wrong moment, and the Exchange now needs a credible commander and defender. It is time for the Bank to make a telephone call.