Bob Diamond arriving to give evidence to the Treasury Select Committee on interest rate fixing. Getty Images
Bob Diamond’s keenly awaited appearance before the Treasury select committee promised much and has so far (it was still going on when I broke off to write this post) offered very little for those seeking to know more about the Libor rate-fixing scandal.
But I think the former Barclays chief executive’s responses have shed light on one puzzle: how did the bank underestimate the public revulsion to the outcome of the investigation so badly? The short answer: the bank thought it would receive more credit in the court of public opinion for having helped expose the mess. Read more
Barclays has finally got the order of resignations the right way round. Bob Diamond’s departure – and the temporary restoration of Marcus Agius as chairman, a day after announcing his own exit – hands the can to the man who should have carried it in the first place.
As I wrote in my column on Monday, after Mr Agius said he would go, the resignation of the chairman didn’t mean Mr Diamond had “dodged the bullet aimed at both of them”.
Yet I still think there is worrying evidence that Barclays senior directors are in denial. In ringing the wagons against outside attack, they seem to be pursuing the line that talented individuals have been laid low by external “events” – the word used in Mr Agius’s resignations statement (now rescinded). Read more
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.
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
I wrote in my FT column about Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, whose remuneration was rejected by 60 per cent of shareholders on Wednesday, and the fact that most CEOs demand to be paid at least as much as their rivals.
That leads to the steady ratcheting up of pay that has enraged UK investors in this year’s “shareholder spring”.
But one aspect of companies such as Barclays and WPP, home to the two highest-paid UK chief executives, is less noticed. It is that the bosses of investment banks and marketing groups tend to compare themselves not just to outsiders, but to the people within their organisations.
Investment banks such as Barclays Capital, employ traders and bankers who earn more than their CEOs, but are invisible because they are not on the board, and so their pay remains secret. Bob Diamond, Barclays’ chief executive and the former head of the investment bank, is the public target. Read more
There’s a famous scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep, as the terrifying editor of a Vogue-like fashion magazine, lectures dowdily dressed Anne Hathaway on the way her “lumpy blue sweater” is, in fact, distantly influenced by the catwalk collections of Oscar de la Renta and Yves St Laurent.
In the same way, are the recent votes of institutional shareholders against executive pay somehow an echo of the Occupy movement’s vocal, if ill-focused, protests, from Wall Street to the City of London?
I think they are. But it suits both sides to disagree, even if the most productive changes in the way capitalism has historically functioned might be achieved by greater engagement. Read more
In its new report, the High Pay Commission makes much of the risk that Britain will slide back to “Victorian levels of pay inequality” if runaway executive pay awards are not somehow reined in.
The parallel with the Victorian era is a resonant one. Even some of the characters in the modern-day saga are Dickensian. The avuncular Vince Cable, Britain’s business secretary and supporter of the thrust of the independent commission’s proposals, is half-Micawber, half-Cheeryble. John Varley, former chief executive of Barclays, seems a stiff-collared braces-wearing throwback to an earlier era in most respects – except one: the commission points out that top pay at his old bank is now 75 times that of the average worker, compared with a ratio of only 14.5 times in 1979. Read more
Barclays: "a Britain-and-onetime-colonies bank"
It’s common to think of Barclays and HSBC as global banks. Certainly, they’re more international than their big UK rivals, as their recent interim results demonstrate. But Pankaj Ghemawat, professor of global strategy at IESE Business School and author of World 3.0, points out that they are more geographically concentrated than most people think – and that’s a good thing. Read more