Running like clockwork

by David Harding

19 Apr 2005

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By the time you read this, David Norgrove would have most likely risen early in his Islington house and eaten a healthy breakfast of muesli, washed down with a possibly less healthy cup of espresso.

This is, apparently, how the first chair of The Pensions Regulator (TPR) likes to spend his mornings before rushing off to work. Such details become known when you are in the public eye, but that is not a new experience for Norgrove, who officially stepped into the role last week.

He has long been making headlines, whether it is from working at the centre of government or receiving large payoffs from well-known companies.

His has been an illustrious and wide-ranging career well before his high-profile appointment at the TPR.

Norgrove started his career as an economist at the Treasury back in 1972. He spent 13 years at arguably the most important government department and was largely involved with domestic monetary policy, the Central Policy Unit and reviews of public expenditure accounting.

Between 1978 and 1980, Norgrove took unpaid leave to work at the First National Bank in Chicago, where he was responsible for running foreign exchange markets.

In 1985, he took up the most eye-popping job on his CV - when he became private secretary to the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, for three years. His responsibilities included domestic issues other than those arising from the Home Office.

And it was not to be his only role within government - in 2002, Alistair Darling appointed him as a non-executive member of the board of the now beleaguered Strategic Rail Authority.

This was the kind of job that made employers sit up and take notice and Norgrove's reward was a position at Marks & Spencer, which in 1988 was at the height of the retail giant's high street pre-eminence.

He held various jobs within M&S. From 1988 to 1994 he worked mainly on the expansion of the company's international business. For the next three years, he worked in the menswear division, taking responsibility for a review of procurement and product development.

By 2000, he had reached the boardroom. But it was the manner of his leaving after his 12-year stint at the retailer that made real headlines. Norgrove received £754,000, despite terrible trading results, when he was eventually fired as the company's head of clothing in January 2004.

By the end of the year, he had been appointed at TPR. The government lauded his experience in both the public and private sectors when they made his appointment known.

With current estimates putting the total assets of Britain's 100,000 pension schemes at around £750bn, you'd think Norgrove had enough on his plate. But he'll be juggling the burden of whipping UK plc's pension schemes into place with a role on the board of the British Museum.

Given the subject matter of his day job, Norgrove's appointment in March 2004, by prime minister Tony Blair, as a trustee to the board of the museum, seems highly appropriate. He will hold the position for four years.

With his penchant for headlines, and already tougher guidelines for company pension firms have been mooted, then it is likely Norgrove will remain in the news. But it is unlikely to put him off his breakfast.

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