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BOE Struck by Lure of Banks as U.K. Economist Quits

BOE Struck by Lure of Banks as Second Economics Manager Quits
Bank of England official Robert Wood's move coincides with a second year of pay freezes for Bank of England staff, adding to the lure of more lucrative City posts. Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg

Bank of England official Robert Wood resigned as London’s finance industry lured a U.K. economic analysis manager from the central bank for the second time in less than a year.

Wood, who led analysis of British data for policy makers, will join Berenberg Bank in London this month, said two people with knowledge of the matter who declined to be identified because the appointment is not yet public. He follows a string of economists who held the position known inside the central bank as Head of the U.K. Team, using it as a springboard for jobs in London’s finance industry.

The move coincides with a second year of pay freezes for Bank of England staff, adding to the lure of more lucrative City posts. Governor Mervyn King, who implemented the salary policy last year, thanked employees in this year’s annual report for their forbearance and singled out the struggle to hire and keep staff as a potential risk to its monetary-policy analysis.

“There’s always a danger that the good ones get poached,” said Shamik Dhar, head of investment strategy at Aviva Investors in London, which oversees $409 billion, and a former Bank of England official. “In the past there’s been a tradition of guys moving to get in to the City as this job does equip you with the right sorts of skills to be a City economist.”

Wood couldn’t be reached for comment. A Bank of England spokeswoman confirmed today that Wood has resigned and said that he will be replaced by Venetia Bell. A spokesman for Berenberg couldn’t immediately comment.

Barclays, HSBC

Previous heads of the U.K. team include Paul Robinson, global head of foreign-exchange research at Barclays Plc, and Simon Hayes, Barclays's chief U.K. economist. Hayes was replaced by Simon Wells, who was Wood’s predecessor in the job and is now chief U.K. economist at HSBC Holdings Plc in London.

“The BOE is a great place to do economics,” said Wells, who joined HSBC in December. “I learnt a lot.”

Berenberg, with about 26 billion euros ($33 billion) under management, was established in 1590 and has its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. The private bank has been expanding in recent years and added 43 staff in London in 2011. In the past year, it also hired another former central bank official, Christian Schulz, who previously worked at the European Central Bank.

The Bank of England’s annual report, published in July, said that a strategic priority was to “ensure the bank has the right people and processes to carry out its core purposes --- in particular during this period of transition,” referring to the transfer of bank-regulation powers from the Financial Services Authority.

“Only by retaining and nurturing the most talented among bank staff and those staff transferring from the FSA can we hope to fulfill our responsibilities,” the annual report said.

The central bank’s pay freeze is set to be reviewed in March 2013. King asked in May to keep his pay frozen until he leaves in June 2013.

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