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Barclays’ Varley warns on regulatory risk

Barclays’ strong performance earns its chief the right to be heard; Varley defends the universal bank model.

John Varley, Barclays

"Probably, the greatest risk for us is the uncertain outlook for regulatory reform. It’s a risk we must manage"

John Varley, Barclays

What is the biggest risk that banks face in 2010? Is it the difficulties of sovereign borrowers in keeping their finances on track and avoiding default? Could it be the threat of a double-dip recession, if investors force up interest rates on government bonds and corporates respond by shelving investment and laying off more workers? Could it be bad loans already festering on their balance sheets inside credit card and unsecured personal loan portfolios?

Not according to John Varley, chief executive of Barclays, who identified an even more troubling problem looming for banks last month when the UK lender impressed the market with strong income and earnings growth for 2009 delivered off a delevered and more strongly capitalized balance sheet that Barclays reduced by one-third over the course of 2009.

Varley says: "Probably, the greatest risk for us is the uncertain outlook for regulatory reform. It’s a risk we must manage and we shouldn’t be fatalistic about it.

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