Rock chief faces jobs dilemma

Ann Godbehere, FD of Northern Rock

Ann Godbehere, FD of Northern Rock

‘There will have to be some threat to jobs,’ said Collins Stewart analyst
Alex Potter. ‘The priority will be to reduce the asset base of the bank.’

Northern Rock’s new FD Ann Godbehere began her bid to rescue the stricken
bank alongside executive chairman Ron Sandler last week.

Her first task, after travelling to Newcastle to meet the bank’s staff, will
be to wade through the asset-backed debt the Rock used to fund its business.

Godbehere is now in control of a reported £113bn of Northern Rock assets and
has the future of 6,500 staff in her hands.

Analysts have said that Godbehere will look to shrink the company’s asset
base, which means that job cuts ­ including a cull of the finance function ­
could be in the pipeline.

The Treasury lost patience with Virgin and Olivant in going down the
nationalisation route.

‘In the current market conditions, we do not believe the two proposals
deliver sufficient value for money for the taxpayer,’ chancellor Alistair
Darling said.

Godbehere is being paid £75,000 a month to do the job. She has spent 31 years
in the profession.

She qualified as a certified general accountant in 1983, but she started her
ascent in 1976 when she joined Sun Life in Canada.

Godbhere went on to join Mercantile & General Reinsurance Group five
years later and when M&G was bought by Swiss Re a year later she opened her
CFO account at Swiss Re’s North American arm in 1996.

By 1998, she had crossed the Atlantic to become CFO of Swiss Re’s London Life
& Health Division and graduated to group control by 2003.

She was judged to be one of the business world’s 50 most powerful women by
Fortune magazine after joining the all-male board.

The market was unprepared for her surprise resignation at the end of 2006.
Rumours abounded that a clash between her and Jacques Aigrain, the Swiss Re
chief executive had led to her departure.

Analysts describe her as ‘a good communicator’ and ‘a safe pair of hands’,
but Godbehere’s financial acumen will be put to the test as Rock shareholders,
investors, the analyst community and the British taxpayer look for a fitting
resolution to the the troubled bank’s problems.

Related reading