When Iain Conn – the vintage-Jaguar-owning boss of Centrica – built a new garage at his home, the planning application reportedly cited the need to protect the smooth old machine from “bird droppings”.
That submission probably referred to the car rather than the old charmer himself, but considering the year that Conn has endured, it might be shrewd for him to take personal precautions.
Conn’s 2017 began with a £9.5m fine for IT failures at Centrica-owned British Gas, but if he hoped that was the nadir, he grossly underestimated an almost peerless talent for calamity.
This year also saw a high court finding that Rolls-Royce had been aware of corruption allegations within the company in 2010, but decided not to notify the Serious Fraud Office (Conn was the senior independent director in 2010 and a director from 2005 to 2014).
Then there was the bombshell of an accounting scandal in BT Group’s Italian arm (Conn sits on the telco’s audit committee), plus the catastrophe at Centrica last week, when the group’s shares had their biggest daily fall after British Gas said it had lost almost 6% of its customers in three months.
This week, Centrica will pay its interim dividend – with investors openly speculating that those payments may be under threat (again) in the next financial year. Conn may soon need to take cover.
RBS could trip in exams over tricky US question
The bank of mum and dad is supposedly familiar with saying prayers for their dependants at exam time, so they can achieve independence (and stop needing parental support).
Well, after his latest budget last week, chancellor Philip Hammond is in a similar spot, having signalled the start of returning Royal Bank of Scotland to the private sector by selling £15bn of the state’s stake in five years.
To do that effectively, though, RBS needs to pass a few exams, including its ability to withstand consumer losses – £30bn across the big lenders – an economic downturn and a collapse in the value of sterling. All will be revealed on Tuesday, when the Bank of England publishes its annual health check on the sector.
Yes, it is bank stress test results week, when RBS is being examined – along with Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Standard Chartered, Santander and Nationwide.
Not that anyone is overly bothered about the rest. The only one of interest will be RBS, with some expecting a technical fail as it faces questions on its multimillion-pound settlement with the US justice department over actions during the financial crisis.
Black Friday bunkum just doesn’t add up
Citizens Advice warns punters to watch out for salespeople who “make promises that sound too good to be true” and “ask you to make a quick decision by saying things like ‘if you don’t act now you’ll miss out’. This puts you under pressure and doesn’t give you time to think.”
It’s actually advice to try to stop folk from falling for con artists, although it seems just as appropriate to shoppers trying to navigate the confected late November sales season, including the tiresome Black Friday last week and its equally irritating sibling, Cyber Monday, tomorrow.
Any psychologist will tell you that it’s all a neat ruse. “It’s a manipulative plot that’s not new in the shopping industry,” this page is hooked on quoting addiction expert Dr Vera Tarman as saying. “If you want deals, you have to get them in within a certain period of time. It gets the mind going.”
Still, what no one ever seems able to explain is why plenty of shoppers seem to understand all the warnings perfectly, but then happily fall for the sales patter anyway. They save £150 on some television they don’t have a spare room to house, and then compound that error by buying a blender they will never take out of the box.
But, hey, just think of all the money they’ve saved.