Barclays’ ousted chief executive Antony Jenkins was nicknamed “The Saint”. He was brought in three years ago to repair the damage of his brash predecessor Bob Diamond who had seen the Wharf-based bank mired in a number of financial scandals.
Mr Jenkins, former head of the retail division, had taken an understate approach in his mission to shine up the bank’s tarnished image, divest non-core assets and cut costs.
But his even pace and style was too much for a bank in a hurry. The share price dragged. Chairman John McFarlane arrived three months ago and on July 8 sacrificed St Antony in his quest to find a speedy return to value for shareholders.
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The bank said: “The non-executive directors led by Sir Michael (Mike) Rake, deputy chairman and senior independent director, concluded that new leadership is required to accelerate the pace of execution going forward.”
There was an apparent clash with the boss of Barclays’ investment bank – Tom King – which made a “him or me” decision seemingly inevitable and bringing the matter to a head. Mr Jenkins lost, but not financially, as he walks away with more than £2million.
Mr McFarlane has form in this regard. When he took over as chairman of Aviva he did a similar thing to chief executive Andrew Moss.
In Barclays, as with Aviva, Mr McFarlane will take executive duties in the interim and struggled to pull his punches when eulogising the departing chief executive who had, reportedly, lost support of board members.
“His skill set was suited to what we needed to get done and he did that superbly well,” Mr McFarlane said.
“Arriving at Barclays with a fresh perspective, it is evident that we have a standout brand with first-class retail, commercial and investment banking businesses. Nevertheless, we are leaving value on the table and a new approach is required.
“As a group, if we aspire to bring shareholder returns forward, we need to be much more focused on what is attractive, what we are good at, and where we are good at it.”
Mr Jenkins said: “It is easy to forget just how bad things were three years ago for our industry and even more so for us.
“I am very proud of the significant progress we have made since then. Our capital position is much stronger, our business model is more balanced, we are much more disciplined on cost management, we have made good progress in rebuilding our reputation and we are seen as a leader in the application of technology to our business.”
A day after the sacking and Barclays is in talks with potential buyers of its retail operations in Italy and Portugal, according to Sky News. This will mean nearly 200 branches in total as part of move to sell up to £100billion on non-core assets, some in the turbulent eurozone. It has already sold retail operations in Spain.
The self-flagellation is over. The Saint has been martyred. Aggression is back in vogue.