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OPINION

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.”

Abigail's biography

Setting the news agenda

Kamlani becomes a serious operator


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.

 
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.

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.

Suneel is highly regarded. A mole told me: “Suneel is simply the best. He has a great combination of business know-how and organizational ability.” I, however, am most excited about the return of Roberto Isolani to London as head of DCM for Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Isolani’s client skills are legendary. But where does all this leave David Soanes, who used to be talked about as a rising meteor at UBS but remains confined to the firmament of financial institutions?

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?

Of course it was a man, Art Buchwald, the Pulitzer prize-winning columnist, who wrote: “If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it.” Buchwald died last week aged 81. An American hero, he had a wounding wit. At one stage, his syndicated column appeared in more than 500 newspapers worldwide. “People ask me what I am really trying to do with humour,” he wrote. “The answer is, ‘I’m getting even.’ For me, being funny is the best revenge.”

I started this column in the Barclays lift. I was on my way to meet a former colleague whom I have always admired. We discussed my move from financier to financial journalist. “You write well,” my ex-colleague commented. “But what I’m surprised about,” and here he averted his eyes from mine, “Is how much you write.”  Always sensitive to reader feed-back, I fear my columns may have mutated from pithy prose to tedious treatises.  So in deference to Sam, I will keep my musings for this week short although sadly not sweet.

Saying of the week; “I’m too senior to have any gossip,” a charming chief grumbled when I interrogated him over lunch.

Next week: RBS emerges from under the radar screen. Please send news and views to Abigail@euromoney.com

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