* CME's Harriet Hunnable tipped as a possible CEO
* Skills could help in fixing warehousing problems
* LME's COO O'Hegarty also a strong contender
By Susan Thomas and Veronica Brown
LONDON, June 25 (Reuters) - Whisper it: The next chief of
the London Metal Exchange (LME), where only men take part in the
shouted, testosterone-fuelled trading of materials like copper,
may be a woman who prides herself on speaking softly.
Industry sources say Harriet Hunnable, managing director of
metals at the CME Group, is among potential candidates
to be LME chief executive when Martin Abbott leaves the post at
the end of this year.
"That's a super compliment," Hunnable, said this week when
asked about talk of her candidacy. "But I'm enjoying my role at
CME group and I've got a lot of things to do here."
The self-described "most quietly spoken fix-it lady in the
metals business" declined to comment further.
A new CEO appointment would come at a time of major upheaval
at the 136-year-old institution - a legacy of Britain's former
manufacturing clout - that remains the world's biggest
marketplace for aluminium, copper, lead, zinc, tin and nickel.
The LME was sold to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing
last year for $2.2 billion in a move reflecting
China's new industrial prominence.
For now, men in business suits conduct often raucous
"open-outcry" trading around a circular "ring" at the LME's
Leadenhall St. headquarters in London's City business district,
observing traditions that date to the exchange's coffee house
There was a woman ring trader but she left.
Much trade on the LME is done electronically or by
telephone, rather than in the ring itself, and women are active
as traders, clients and exchange staff.
FIX-IT SKILLS MUCH NEEDED
Fix-it skills are much in need at the LME just now.
Fury is growing among its industrial clients, who blame the
exchange for letting agonisingly long queues build up for
material they have bought via the LME and want to withdraw from
warehouses in the global network it oversees.
They say LME rules allow firms running warehouses to make
money by building up big stocks and charging for storage while
they deliver metal out at a limited rate.
"With Abbott, the big proponent of no change, leaving, the
LME is in a better position to make changes to placate
customers," one metals industry source said.
The issue of warehouse backlogs almost derailed the takeover
The latest complaints this week came from The Beer
Institute, which represents global brewers and their suppliers
struggling to get aluminium for cans at a reasonable price.
It wants an end to the "restrictive and outdated warehousing
rules and practices that are interfering with normal supply and
demand dynamics" and changes to bring the LME's warehousing
practices in line with other global commodity exchanges.
Meanwhile the CME, where Hunnable works, is looking at
expanding its warehouse network as its COMEX copper contract
eats into the LME's dominance in global copper futures.
"IT COULD BE A HE, IT COULD BE A SHE"
HKEx Chief Executive Charles Li, asked in Hong Kong about
the search for a new LME head, replied: "It could be a he, it
could be a she."
"Everything is on the table," he told Reuters on the
sidelines of LME Week Asia, an industry gathering now under way
in Hong Kong.
"We have some very, very high calibre individuals. We have a
great franchise and we have great world class leaders. We are
very lucky and we are in discussions."
With European regulators ready to impose new rules on
financial markets, the LME's Chief Operating Officer Diarmuid
O'Hegarty is well placed. A solicitor, he became LME executive
director of regulation and compliance in 2004, deputy chief
executive in 2008 and COO earlier this year.
"He is a strong contender," one metals industry source said.
Other possibilities are Martin Pratt, chief operating
officer at metals trader Triland, and Gavin Prentice, former
managing director and global head of sales for Marex Spectron.
But most sources say it's likely that the next CEO will come
from another exchange.
Romnesh Lamba, HKEx co-head of global markets division, said
the new CEO was unlikely to come from the Hong Kong exchange and
he or she would have to meet British and European regulatory
requirements. He ruled himself out as a contender.