Alliance & Leicester veteran straddles top roles

and Leicester
’s finance director Chris Rhodes has taken on the chief
executive position after a period of only seven months in the bank’s FD role.

Rhodes will still be responsible for financial accounting, planning,
reporting, risk and property services, but his new responsibilities will mean he
faces increased exposure from investors and analysts.

His sudden and unusual promotion came as incumbent chief executive David
Bennett was laid low by serious illness. A source said that Bennett would
definitely not be back for the release of the company’s preliminary results on
20 February.

The bank said: ‘Alliance & Leicester announces that David Bennett, group
chief executive, is on temporary leave of absence due to an abdominal illness.
As a consequence, with effect from today, Chris Rhodes, group FD, is to take on
the role of acting chief executive of Alliance & Leicester.’

The bank has a history of promoting from the finance function for new CEOs.
Former chief executives Richard Pym and David Bennett were both in charge of the
finance function, but Rhodes, an Alliance & Leicester employee for 20 years,
could not have expected to take control so soon after his appointment as FD.

Like the rest of the financial services sector, the company is riding the
shockwaves created by the liquidity crisis, but A&L says it is less exposed.

A&L said the value of a range of its assets had now dropped by a total of
£185m, after telling shareholders last year that the credit crunch had made a
£55m hole in its books.

Most of the extra losses came from A&L’s investments in structured
investment vehicles which borrow short-term money and subsequently invest in
longer term assets, such as the US sub-prime housing market.

The bank takes a cautious approach to the markets and Rhodes will be expected
to toe the party line.

Sir Derek Higgs, chairman of Alliance & Leicester, said: ‘Chris is the
ideal person to lead the bank in David’s absence.

‘His leadership qualities and long experience of the group, as FD, in the
commercial bank and as MD of the retail bank, fully equip him for the task.’

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