Howard Davies, chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland NV (RBS), poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in London, U.K., on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. RBS charging negative rates on collateral "puts us in line with a lot of banks in the big trading areas," Davies said in the interview. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg
© Bloomberg

Howard Davies : Criminal Wit

RBS chairman Howard Davies was in sharp-tongued form on Tuesday when he welcomed the press to the bank’s new HQ at 250 Bishopsgate. First he ribbed the (absent) Ross McEwan, saying he was gradually being replaced as chief exec: he had one new knee last week, the other one would be renewed soon, then there’d be a heart and lung transplant. Next Davies — a part-time lecturer at Sciences Po in Paris — lauded the wit of France’s Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau who joked she was renaming her cat “Brexit”, because he whined to go outside and then whined to come back in. “Quite funny for a French person,” said Davies. Journalists — “dinosaurs just like the banks” — were also chided, as was rival bank HSBC, whose shares had underperformed RBS by 29 per cent, since RBS’s former finance director swapped banks at the end of last year. So why did the always witty Davies seem spikier than usual? Something to do with moving HQ, perhaps. Though Davies is glad to be shot of the old building, he’ll miss his corner office. Next week he’ll be thrown into an open plan floor, with only wooden slatting to screen his desk. A bit like being in jail, he reckons.

Henrik Du Toit : Game on

Hendrik du Toit is limbering up to float Investec’s asset management business, separating it from the South African banking group that he currently co-heads — possibly as early as the summer. The sporty London-based Afrikaner — a former cricketer, now a keen runner — is deep in discussions with his rivals as he seeks investor approval for a quirky bit of governance that would see him take an executive chairman role, with board independence reliant on other non-execs including a senior independent who has yet to be decided. Even if he wins that debate, and regulators and investors wave through the float in time for a July listing, the driven du Toit has an extra hurdle: recovering from hip surgery in time to get all the prep work done in time. The race is on.

Nomura: In the frame

Japanese banks might be struggling for profits these days. But that’s not stopped Nomura from announcing a new US$1m prize, the Nomura Art Award, for an artist “who has created a body of work of major cultural significance”. It’s the biggest cash award in contemporary art and can be used “in whole or part” for a new project that the winner would otherwise be unable to fund. But impecunious artists should hold fire before submitting begging letters. As the rules make clear, “No applications are accepted for these awards, and all decisions by the jury are final.”

Chris Ashton: Force be with you

“Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” So said Yoda of Star Wars fame. Now, having fought the US Department of Justice and won, ex-Barclays currencies chief Chris Ashton is donning the Jedi master’s robes. Despite abandoning the high-flying City life to become a tennis coach, Ashton and a handful of other veteran traders, including ex-Standard Chartered FX chief Chris Allington, are listed as “mentors” on the website of the private investor-focused Corellian Trading Academy, founded by ex-ICAP big swinger Peter Wells. Wells (aka Sizzle) is clearly such a Star Warrior that he named his firm after the homeworld of the films’ hero Han Solo, himself a Yoda mentee. With around 90 per cent of amateur traders losing money, trainees need as much force to be with them as possible.

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