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Opinion

Abigail with attitude: Jenkins' Gulag-esque approach to redefining Barclays

Trying to change cultures within banking institutions is never easy, which is why Barclays’ new chief executive is taking a hard and seemingly Soviet-era approach at the UK bank. The message is clear: Barclays would now like to be seen as a stodgy commercial bank run by a proselytizing Brit.

It’s a bit like the Gulag with all this ‘re-education’ going on," my mole grumbled. Mole is a senior trader at Barclays in London and has witnessed, with a jaundiced eye, the new Barclays chief executive’s purging offensive. Antony Jenkins, who replaced Bob Diamond last September, has been babbling to anyone who will listen that he will change the culture at the bank and turn it from a wicked hobgoblin into a fragrant princess. Jenkins purrs that murky episodes like complex tax planning that aimed to "rip the Revenue’s eyeballs out" (in trader’s parlance) and fund-raisings that lack transparency are things of the past for the UK bank. However, I wonder if this will be the case.

Andrew Tyrie, MP, the redoubtable chairman of the UK’s Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, would appear to be another sceptic. Tyrie described Barclays’ Sir John Sunderland‘s defence of the generous bonuses awarded to former CEO Bob Diamond as "absolutely extraordinary". Sir John is the head of Barclays’ remuneration committee and appears more mellow towards the former CEO than Alison Carnwath, his predecessor. Carnwath, stiletto in hand, skewered Diamond when she told the commission that he "thought he found loyalty in people around him by paying them a lot of money".

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