Monthly Archives: June 2012

Andrew Hill

As his job security plummets in line with Barclays’ share price, Bob Diamond is haunted by what he said in the BBC Today Business Lecture last year about culture:

Culture is difficult to define, I think it’s even more difficult to mandate – but for me the evidence of culture is how people behave when no one is watching.

But Mr Diamond didn’t suddenly wake up to the importance of a strong corporate culture after becoming chief executive of Barclays. He’s been talking about it for years and mainly with reference to his “no jerk” rule at Barclays Capital, the investment banking arm he used to run and that was home to the trading “dudes” skewered in the Libor-fixing scandal. Here he is talking about the rule in an interview with The Times last December:

If someone can’t behave with their colleagues and can’t be part of the culture, it doesn’t matter how good they are at what they do, they have to be asked to leave. You know what a jerk is when you see it. If we ever ignore the rule it always comes back to haunt us.

 Read more

Rupert Murdoch has a few things in common with Warren Buffett. They are both 81, they both love newspapers and they both run public companies named after their worst investments from the past. Mr Buffett’s is Berkshire Hathaway, a New England textile company, Mr Murdoch’s is News Corp.

Andrew Hill

Jonathon Porritt, the environmental campaigner, believes “almost everybody in [your] organisation knows almost nothing about energy”.

So how should companies go about instilling the necessary energy awareness and zeal for change in employees – and, ultimately, suppliers and customers?

Mr Porritt – speaking during a panel I chaired on Wednesday at the Green Corporate Energy conference in London – laid out two paths: “command and control” or “we’re all in this together”. If you follow the first path, you place your faith in technology to regulate corporate energy use. Follow the second and you rely on users’ personal engagement and sense of responsibility. Read more

One principle underpins Walt Disney Parks and Resorts: the product is not Mickey Mouse, castles, rollercoaster rides or parades; it is the whole “guest experience”.

Andrew Hill

The modern manual of chief executive apologies for corporate cock-ups is short: 1) say sorry, 2) stress customers are your priority, 3) praise staff for working hard to solve the problem, 4) say sorry again. Repeat, ad nauseam.

Royal Bank of Scotland’s Stephen Hester managed to follow these simple rules on Monday in his first public appearance since a software failure left millions of customers of RBS, Natwest and Ulster Bank unable to access bank accounts or make transactions. In an interview with Sky News, he was serious, he was plain-spoken and he was in Edinburgh. This last is important, not only because jet-setting while customers suffer is a bad look for a banker, but because there is already an undertone of complaint that an RBS decision to outsource IT services may be to blame for the problem – something Mr Hester denied. Read more

John Gapper

The Moody’s downgrade of 15 banks is a backward-looking review of the strategy that has dominated global banking for the past two decades – expanding into high-margin capital markets operations. It does not get good marks.

There was always a problem inherent in banks such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays, UBS, Bank of America, Credit Suisse and others trying to play in the investment banking world. Yet it took a very long time for a penalty to be applied.

Of course, the question is why it wasn’t applied earlier. Many of the things that Moody’s writes about in its note accompanying the downgrades were evident a long time ago – high volatility came with high margins. Read more

Two white-collar criminals received justice last week – Allen Stanford of Stanford International Bank and Rajat Gupta of McKinsey & Co and Goldman Sachs. One’s actions are easy to understand, the other’s extremely hard.