Capitalism and climate control: If you’re not green you’re a gorgon
“The media,” I mused, is out of control. “They find a topic and savage it to death.”
I was talking to Nicola in a lift at Barclays’ Canary Wharf headquarters. A prominently placed notice proclaimed the environmental credentials of Barclays in France.
Today, if you’re not green you’re a gorgon. The headline in the Financial Times last Friday was “Tesco to ‘Carbon label’” its products. “The market is ready. Customers tell us they want our help to do more in the fight against climate change,” pontificated chief executive Sir Terry Leahy.
I’m baffled. I never thought capitalism and climate control would become bedfellows. But the media vultures have made “sustainability” (whatever that is), the news agenda du jour. And we all have to read and talk about it – continually. I don’t relish being manipulated in this way. But I do relish creating the news agenda. The story we published two weeks ago about Barclays Capital banker Roger Jenkins and his attractive wife Diana/Dijana has spawned many children. The national press is now obsessed with the ex-athlete turned tax wizard and his munificent bonuses. Photographs of Mr Jenkins, looking omnipotent, are everywhere.
One magazine claimed that “the Dodger” might have earned as much as £75 million last year. “Is this appropriate for someone who works for a public company and is taking no personal risk?” I asked a source. “Jenkins can only do his job because he uses the reputation, resources and tax capacity of Barclays.” Source disagreed: “Some Goldman Sachs employees make that sort of money, and no-one complains that they are milking the franchise.”
Perhaps Source is correct. Roger Jenkins chairs the Barclays Capital Recruitment Committee. He thus has an important role in shaping the future and culture of the firm. Aspiring applicants can only be inspired by his success. I am reminded of the banal interview question favoured by pompous investment bankers: “Where do you want to be in five years’ time?” The correct answer, of course, is: “Behind your desk.”
I always performed dismally at interviews and I am not clever enough to understand the implications of note 8 to the 2005 accounts of D-Sol Systems Limited. But then I am not paid £75 million. D-Sol Systems is a private company in which both Barclays Capital and Jenkins were shareholders and of which Jenkins was a director.
I wonder what ascetic Hammersmith dweller John Varley, Barclays chief executive, makes of it all? Especially as Mr and Mrs-“I’m addicted to my private jet”-Jenkins enjoy a lifestyle that would not disgrace the Sun King, Louis XIV. Tales of mansions in Malibu and Mayfair and mink ponchos (for her not him) abound. It is one of life’s minor tragedies that all of Jenkins’s money cannot purchase the one thing he probably desires most: hair. The tax wizard is follically challenged. And now that his profile is sky-high, it’s too late for a wig. Bless.
Suneel Kamlani is another investment banker who is soaring skywards. This month, Suneel, UBS’s global head of debt capital markets, was promoted to chief of staff at the investment bank. I’m usually sceptical about such roles, which can be amorphous, involving either a lot of power or very little power. However, Kamlani’s fixed-income background will complement the equity expertise of Huw Jenkins, chief executive of the investment bank. UBS has a military-like fascination with these operational roles. Last November, Robert Wolf, chief operating officer at the investment bank, had glory thrust upon him when he was appointed chief executive of UBS in the Americas.
Dinner at the Electric Brasserie in Notting Hill with my glamorous friend, Debbie. “I’ve noticed ,” she said loyally, “that all the best columnists are female. There’s you, Lucy Kellaway and Mrs Moneypenny.” Although I am embarrassed to be in such elevated company, Debbie might have a point. Women often feel excluded from the establishment and thus have less to lose by highlighting the fact that the emperor has no clothes. What do you think?
Saying of the week; “I’m too senior to have any gossip,” a charming chief grumbled when I interrogated him over lunch.