Where will new FD Chris Rhodes take Alliance & Leicester?

If you want to be chief executive of a FTSE100 company, join Alliance &
Leicester. The bank continued the most predictable trend in business last week
by appointing its FD David Bennett as its new CEO. He follows Richard Pym, who
was also the FD.

The question being asked, though, is: ‘is the company becoming too dull?’ Is
the challenge for the new CEO and FD to kick more life into the organisation, or
is it just the ultimate FD finishing school?

What’s happened…

Bennett’s appointment was given a lukewarm reception not because he was
thought of as a liability, but because he embodies the bank’s ‘Goldilocks’
approach to its strategy – not too hot, not too cold – just right.

The company has continued its tradition of internal recruitment with
Bennett’s appointment and opting for Chris Rhodes, its head of retail banking,
as the incoming FD.

What’s going to happen…

The general consensus is that the bank is continuing its policy of playing
safe by installing one of the company faithful at the helm, and this appears to
filter all the way down the food chain.

One commentator described the company as the ‘Volvo’ of the banking world in
relation to its safety-first approach. Rhodes is a company man through and
through, but unlike economist Bennett, he is a qualified chartered accountant,
who trained at Ernst & Whinney.

He became MD of the Retail Banking arm in October 2003, was previously the
group’s operations director and has held a number of senior positions with the
Group since joining in 1988, including deputy MD and FD of Alliance &
Leicester Commercial Bank plc (formerly Girobank plc).

He will assume responsibility for financial accounting, planning and
reporting, strategic planning, group risk and group property services. As FD,
its likely he will continue to execute the bank’s trademark cautious approach. A
&L only follows the moves of the trailblazers like HSBC and RBS after the
success of a new initiative has been proven – the bank only entered the
sub-prime lending market and the buy-to-let arena last year, far later than its

Bennett has already come out to say that there is momentum behind the
business and the strategy is ‘very sound’.

Not the most inspiring outlook, but if it produces results, who will argue?

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