February 4, 2011 12:55 am

Economist moves into Wimpey

Kate Barker now has a full portfolio

Former member of the Bank of England’s monetary policy committee Kate Barker, who has a self-professed “obsession with housing”, is joining the board of housebuilder Taylor Wimpey.

The unassuming 53-year-old has long been involved in housing policy and has led government reviews on housing supply and land-use planning. Long committed to housing for people at all levels, the economist’s role at Taylor Wimpey will mean she stands down as a board member of the homes and communities agency, where she was also a member of its predecessor body, the Housing Corporation.

Ms Barker is also on the boards of private equity group Electra and Yorkshire Building Society, and is a senior adviser to Credit Suisse as well as chairing the Northern Ireland Economic Advisory Group.

She feels she now has a full portfolio, but has time for her hobby of church bell-ringing.

. . .

My mate Marmite

Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Unilever – which makes the black stuff – says over the years, its senior executives have been split 50-50 on the Marmite test.

Unilever’s finance director Jean-Marc Huët – known for his penchant for the consumer product group’s products including its Magnum ice-creams – says he gives the spread the thumbs up.

He told FT Alphaville on Thursday that he only found out a month ago there is Marmite cheese, which he loves, and is also a big fan of the Marmite rice cracker. His taste for Marmite makes up for boss and fellow Dutchman Paul Polman, who cannot stand the stuff.

. . .

Join the Club

The 30% Club, the initiative that sets out to shake up male-dominated boardrooms without government-imposed quotas, has appointed its first female chairman into the fold.

Lloyds Banking Group’s Sir Win Bischoff, one of the founding chairmen of the group, has invited Anita Frew, chairman of Victrex and a board member at his bank, to join the club this week.

The initiative, founded by Helena Morrissey, chief of Newton Investment Management, and other senior female executives including Heather McGregor of headhunters Taylor Bennett and Sian Westerman of NM Rothschild, was launched late last year.

Other supporting chairmen include J Sainsbury’s David Tyler, Sir Roger Carr of Centrica and former HSBC chairman Lord Green.

. . .

UK multinationals

While there has been gnashing of teeth in some quarters about Vodafone being led by an Italian chief alongside a German-born chairman, Vittorio Colao brushed concerns aside on Thursday: “Why should that be a problem?” he asked, adding that Gerard Kleisterlee was a very “international person” with a vast knowledge of business. “I am not sure where you are born does make a big difference.”

To back his point, of the top five companies by market value on the FTSE, only HSBC is run by Brits – chief Stuart Gulliver and chairman Douglas Flint.

BHP Billiton, Royal Dutch Shell, Rio Tinto and now Vodafone are led and chaired by Australians, South Africans, Swiss and Finns.

. . .

Edward Bramson

Power Player: Edward Bramson, Sherborne founder

Edward Bramson may be the investor most corporate executives do not want to see on the other side of the table, but the activist investor was gracious in his victory at F&C’s shareholder meeting on Thursday.

Dressed in a dark suit, the 59-year-old quietly addressed the 120 or so investors gathered at JPMorgan Cazenove’s offices in the City. Speaking in a North American accent, the Kensington-born investor said he had found the F&C directors courteous, and denied his criticism of the fund management group was personal.

Mr Bramson left the UK for the US in the 1970s – he jokes that he was fed up of getting stuck in lifts during the electricity strikes. However, the New York resident will no doubt now be spending more time in London as chairman of F&C.

Mr Bramson, who has now lived in New York for longer than in London, is married to an American. He also owns several horses.

people@ft.com

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