PAULINE Bradley made a sharp exit from the world of corporate law for which she had trained for seven years. ''I spent my time in meetings drafting other people's deals,'' she complained.

Well, no longer.

Now she is the dealmaker, the one who gives the final nod of acceptance to a string of strategic investments by the Bank of Scotland with an average value of (pounds) 80m.

As the bank's head of joint ventures, she had written business worth (pounds) 1.5bn by June this year, and new deals are queuing up at the door of her brand new offices in Uberior House at the top of Edinburgh's Lothian Road.

''We are getting the oppor-

tunity to do some phenomenal business,'' she said. ''They are exciting ventures with good

partners with active equity involvement.''

Headline events recently include a 50-50 joint venture with Macdonald Hotels to buy the Heritage chain from Compass for (pounds) 235m; the hotel content for Clydeport's Glasgow harbour scheme; the prestigious Ocean Terminal site at Leith - complete with Terence Conran - which will create 1600 jobs; and backing for Rocco Forte's inter-national hotel chain ambitions.

Yet joint ventures is a relatively recent departure for Bank of Scotland, which has helped put its corporate division in the position of contributing 36% of the bank's total business.

It did not exist when Bradley joined in 1991 after an uninspiring three years with a Glasgow law firm. After just four years, she was asked to head up the PFI team as the bank made a late entry into the field.

''We were running at the tail end,'' she said, ''but we moved the bank from 10th in the league to 2nd, and I count that as one of my biggest achievements.

''PFI work was all about managing competing agendas, and moving at the public sector pace, which was frustrating.

''But it taught me to be

patient and it taught me a lot about negotiation.''

Bradley is adamant that she cannot claim sole credit for the concept of joint ventures, but she admits the bank encouraged her to be brave when she mooted putting equity into transactions. ''No other bank was doing that at the time,'' she said.

Now both of Scotland's major banks are taking an increasing share in business profits across a range of sectors at the expense of straightforward interest on loans provided.

''There are reciprocal benefits,'' said Bradley. ''Somebody seeking to fund an acquisition might go to a bank for senior debt, to a mezzanine fund for the higher risk strip of debt, and a private equity house, a VC house, or your own pockets for the

equity. We are now saying: 'We will give you the whole lot', and that is proving very attractive for partners.''

The attraction for the bank is an enhanced return. It is not cheap, said Bradley, and some of the strips of debt attract premium pricing.

''It takes us out of being commodity lenders,'' she explained. ''If all your business as a bank is in commodity lending and your margins shift, you've got to run very fast to stand still.''

Joint ventures also create enhanced returns for the bank through the equity. ''More and more we are focusing on the investment side of what we're doing,'' she said. ''The market tends to like the more efficient way of borrowing and a company in a joint venture can often see an improvement in its share price.''

The business model targets strategic investments in asset-backed, strongly-managed companies in the upper quartile of their sector looking for long-term partnering.

''We need to distinguish ourselves from VC houses. We don't compete with them. The number of times a VC house has to sell its assets to keep its funders happy comes out at an average of three years. On equity, we are happy to sit for seven to ten years. We're long-term players.''

Bradley is aiming at ever-more ambitious deals which the bank's recent merger with the Halifax now allows it to do, since it will give her team access to more


''We have access to a much

bigger balance sheet,'' she said. ''To an extent, we had been restrained in terms of deal size. We had to turn down deals last year which were just too big for us.

''There are better deals in the marketplace and the merger allows us to chase them.''

Bradley, who is recruiting another 10 people to her 27-strong team, said: ''They have written 32 joint ventures in 18 months, and that's a lot. If I get the opportunity, I'd like to do a smaller number of bigger transactions. I think that's a better use of our resources.''