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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 13:35 GMT
Clara Furse: A profile
Clara Furse, the lady tipped to become the new head of London's stock exchange
A breath of fresh air at the London Stock Exchange?
The new chief executive of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), Clara Furse, is a veteran in the world of finance.

The boys have made a mess of it, so why not let the girls have a go?

Brian Winterflood
Winterflood Securities
The 43-year-old investment banker started her career in the City of London almost two decades ago.

She has spent most of that time working in the cutting edge world of financial derivatives, such as futures and options, excelling to a range of top jobs along the way.

In addition, Mrs Furse has experience from a high level exchange position.

Liffe link-up?

Until May 1999 she was the deputy chairman of Liffe, the London International Financial Futures Exchange, after having been on the board of directors since 1990.

At some stage, she was even shortlisted for the job as chairman.

Market players believe her experience would put her in a good position to expand the London Stock Exchange's derivatives business.

Some even talk of a link-up between LSE and Liffe as a competitive strategy to counter the onslaught from Deutsche Börse and Euronext, the merger between the bourses in Paris, Belgium and the Netherlands, which both deal in both equities and derivatives.

International background

Mrs Furse was born in Canada to Dutch parents before being educated in Colombia, Denmark and England.

She is married with three children and lives in South London.

London Stock Exchange
The stock exchange is in dire need of a strategy to beat off the competition
Mrs Furse studied economics at "the other LSE" - London School of Economics - then joined Philips and Drew as a commodity broker in 1983.

The international commodity markets tie in closely with the financial futures markets, so when Ms Furse decided to specialise on futures three years into her career, it was no diversion.

Two years later she was appointed a director of the company, which subsequently merged with Union Bank of Switzerland and changed name to UBS Phillips & Drew.

The bank changed name again following its merger with Swiss Bank in 1998, this time to UBS.

Furse jumps ship

By the time Mrs Furse left the company following the merger she had been a managing director at UBS for five years and global head of futures for four of them.

Don Cruickshank, the chairman of London Stock Exchange
Stock exchange chairman Don Cruickshank is expected to announce his appointment this week
She stayed in her next job as chief executive of Credit Lyonnais Rouse until last December.

"It looks like a pretty strong CV," said Angela Knight, chief executive of Apcims, the UK private retail client broker association.

Mrs Knight's endorsement carries weight, not only because Apcims represents about a third of LSE's shareholders, but also because she was herself rumoured to be a contender for the top job at LSE.

International background

Mrs Furse's linguistic skills and international background are seen as good news by many market players.

An outsider's perspective may be required to give the exchange direction in a tough market characterised by competition from overseas exchanges.

And not only competition in the markets. There is also the threat of another hostile takeover bid following that from OM during last autumn.

LSE remains a very attractive target for competing stock exchanges that are keen to bring Europe's largest exchange into their portfolios.

Both Euronext and Deutsche are due to raise money through their national equity markets over the next three months.

And both exchanges will devote the cash to expand.

Further consolidation in the industry has become inevitable; for London Stock Exchange, it seems likely that the only path forward is through some form of joint venture with another strong partner.

Failing that would make it ripe for a hostile raid.

Popular banker

So more important, perhaps, than Mrs Furse's former career would be her determination to take on the exchange's Old Boys - a curious bunch because they are both the share holders and the users of the exchange and therefore struggle with their own conflicting needs.

Gavin Casey resigned over his role in the failed merger with Deutsche Börse
Sometimes referred to as the best Gentlemen's Club in London, the stock exchange has never before in its 228 years' history appointed a woman to such a senior position.

But it seems many market players would be prepared to give her a go, on the basis of her reputation as a pretty hard-nosed financier.

"The boys have made a mess of it, so why not let the girls have a go," said Winterflood Securities shareholder and chief executive Brian Winterflood.

Mr Winterflood is referring to Gavin Casey who resigned after losing support following the botched merger attempt between the LSE and Deutsche Börse.

Similar criticism could apply to Michael Lawrence, Mr Casey's predecessor who departed in 1996, and to Peter Rawlins, who stood down in 1993 after ditching the unworkable back-office system Taurus, as well as to several of their predecessors.

The chief executive's job at LSE is, after all, regarded as one of the hardest in the City.

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23 Jan 01 | Business
Stock Exchange chief 'to be named'
21 Jan 01 | Business
LSE 'close to appointing chief'
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