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Bernard Ginns: Battle for trust at bank brought to account for scandals

OF all the British banks, Barclays has perhaps the most distinguished history.

The name has been associated with banking since 1736, although the company was historically known as the Quaker Bank, reflecting the noble traditions of its founding families.

Quakers were a force for good in society and produced some of the greatest and most inspired acts of civic and social enterprise in our nation.

I have a personal interest to declare – I banked with Barclays for two-and-a-half decades but left a couple of years ago when I got fed up with awful customer service.

But my experience as a disgruntled retail customer pales into insignificance when compared to the great banking scandals that have engulfed Barclays in recent times. Modern-day Quakers and indeed any right-thinking members of society will have been shocked at the greed and cynicism within the institution as revealed by consecutive mis-selling and rate-rigging episodes.

US and UK regulators have fined Barclays $450m for manipulating the Libor lending rate. In addition, the bank has been hit with a £700m charge for mis-selling payment protection insurance.

Further, the bank has been investigated by the Financial Services Authority and Serious Fraud Office into payments to Qatari investors after it raised billions of pounds from the Gulf state five years ago to save it from taking a taxpayer bailout.

And in America, the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission have been probing whether the bank’s relationships with third parties who help it win or retain business are compliant with US laws.

In short, Barclays’ reputation has been hammered.

The Blue Eagle has had it wings clipped.

But life goes on and the institution’s universal banking franchise “remains strong and well positioned”, according to new chief executive Antony Jenkins.

On Thursday, I met Tony Walsh, managing director of Barclays’ £6bn corporate banking business in the North of England, who provided an insight into some of the changes at the bank in the new regime.

“What Antony is doing is he is setting out a framework,” said Mr Walsh. “A lot of the discussions internally are about culture.

“He has said firstly the trust point we have to deal with.”

The bank has hired the lawyer Anthony Salz to carry out a wide-ranging review of its business practices.

Mr Walsh said: “What Antony Jenkins is saying is ‘look, culture starts from the top’, setting the culture and all of the discussions that he’s talking about is rebuilding trust and taking time to do that, so the Transform programme, which is an internal Barclays mnemonic, is very much ‘we need to start it but it will take time’. The messages he is giving are ‘rebuild the trust, but we will do it properly, we will take our time to do so’.

“He’s out and about seeing staff and indeed customers and I suspect he’s spending a lot of time as well with Government and the FSA.

“We’re about to launch one or two new internal communications within Barclays in which Antony will be on film, talking to the staff about things and all this will culminate when we announce our results in February, Antony will announce to the market his plans for Barclays as CEO.”

Barclays is an enormous organisation with more than 100,000 employees and is of profound economic importance to the UK economy.

In other words, we need it to do well so it can support SMEs with growth potential and help people buy their own homes.

Mr Jenkins is right that it will take a long time to rebuild the trust. It cannot be thought of as a short-term marketing exercise. It has to be something deeper than that otherwise people won’t buy it.

Mr Walsh said: “Trust is one of those things that takes years and years and years to build and you can destroy it overnight.

“All the discussions that I’m having and the work I’m getting involved in or seeing says this will take time. It will take years to rebuild trust.”

TECHNOLOGY entrepreneur Ajaz Ahmed has criticised Leeds’s efforts to market itself to international investors and claimed he hasn’t seen much output from the new marketing body, Leeds and Partners.

I approached Leeds and Partners for a comment. It doesn’t want to.

I approached Leeds City Council for a comment. After all, it provides Leeds and Partners with millions of pounds worth of public funds.

The council does not want to comment either, claiming that it’s a matter for Leeds and Partners.

Someone please tell me: Where’s the accountability?

 

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