Dear Euan Sutherland

Congratulations on becoming chief executive of the Co-Op. Apparently, your “considerable experience of the strategic leadership needed in complex consumer-facing businesses” swung it. Well, your experience of the strategic leadership needed in banking wouldn’t, since you’ve got none. Having worked at Boots, Mars and Kingfisher, the top bird in DIY, you seem to have decided that three months on the board there is enough.

The Co-Op is an attractive business model, as you will have seen as a non-exec. It sounds less aggressive than a plc, since some profits are recycled to the customers. Your predecessor has done a fine job, turning Somerfield into places that shoppers might actually prefer to visit for the groceries. Your experience will doubtless help this process, but that looks like yesterday’s problem.

Today’s is banking, and making something of those 632 branches the Co-Op bought from Lloyds. Perhaps “bought” is too strong a word, since Lloyds was so desperate that it not only butchered the price, but also lent the Co-op the money to pay it. Nevertheless, it’s quite a lump to swallow. Your bank may become a credible competitor to the big five, but integrating banking systems brings execution risk (for companies and executives) and in five years’ time retail banking may have disappeared into a smartphone app.

Mind you, if supermarket tills do become bank branches, the Co-op should be as well placed as anyone to cope, so it may be that experience in complex consumer-facing businesses is just the ticket. Unfortunately, putting non-bankers in charge of banks has not produced happy outcomes in the past, as the shareholders in HBoS could tell you. Best of luck. And keep a close eye on those wholesale money markets.

Predictions, predictions

The analysts at Saxo Bank make outrageous predictions at this time of year. For 2013 they see plunging German shares, soaraway soya beans, gold at $1200 and Spanish sovereign debt at 10 per cent. They also suggest that Japan will nationalise its ailing electronics companies.

This is not so much outrageous as astonishing. It’s only a few years since the likes of Sony, Sharp and Panasonic bestrode the consumer electronics world like colossi, destroying the competition with clever little gadgets or better tellies. Today their business models are broken. The South Koreans, led by Samsung, have done for them. Saxo sees a government rescue in the style of the US bailout of the auto industry. However, whether the Japanese can reinvent a business as GM and Ford have done is doubtful, given the culture of unquestioning respect for seniors and the reluctance to face anything unpleasant.

Last year’s predictions from Saxo included a surprise candidate for the White House, Apple shares halving and 50 forced bank nationalisations in the EU, so perhaps its forecasting is no better than that of the rest of us. Last month the investment bank laid off 20 per cent of its workforce, or 266 employees. How many of them saw that coming?

Call that compensation?

We taxpayers have been jolly generous to George Entwistle for his 54 unhappy days as director-general of the BBC. His boss, Chris Patten, assures us that the £450,000 pay-off, plus health and protection money, is less than a court would find under his contract, which rather begs the question as to why the employer wrote it this way in the first place.

Compensation, in a slightly different context, is being paid to the Official Saviour of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. His contract covers a fine London house, a pension bung and a basic salary of £480,000. We’re not told about compensation should he decide that the job of Governor is too difficult for a mere mortal.

Still, lets keep a sense of proportion here. Mr Carney could name his price (and it looks as though he did) and Mr Entwistle had the defective BBC contract in his pocket, but compared to Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, they are mere amateurs. In return for walking away from his job as CEO of Norilsk Nickel, he collects $100m. Mind you, he was there for four years, which works out at less than $700,000 per day. A rounding error, really.

This is an updated version of my column in Saturday’s Financial Times

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/2720b866-4b60-11e2-88b5-00144feab49a.html#axzz2FxjJXnuz

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