Barclays reinvents itself

Shares in Barclays jumped as new boss Antony Jenkins unveiled the details of his much-awaited reforms. He plans to cut costs, increase dividends and improve the bank’s ethical standards.

More than 3,700 jobs will go, mostly across Asia and Europe, as part of a £1.7bn cost-cutting scheme. Most of the cuts will fall on the bank’s international retail-banking operations.

What the commentators said

The man who once said he would “shred” the legacy of predecessor Bob Diamond “just tweaked it, gave it a polish and put it back in pride of place on the mantel”, said Jonathan Guthrie in The Times. “The retail banker has resisted pressure to shrink the investment bank into a risk helpdesk for corporate borrowers, as RBS has been forced to do.”

Jenkin’s plan to improve the bank’s ethos and morality could founder, said Harry Wilson in The Daily Telegraph. “There are some corners of banking that will defy all his attempts to turn them into exemplars of good behaviour and morality. He has already shut down the bank’s controversial structured capital markets unit, but he may need to be prepared to shut more businesses if he is truly to transform Barclays.”

This idea of improving culture and ethics is a red herring, said Joris Luyendijk in The Guardian. The real culprit is the incentive structure that banks and the wider global financial sector are locked into. That must be reformed urgently. “Jenkins may or may not fail in his attempts to clean up his own bank, but if the global financial cartel is not overhauled, it will not make any difference.”

Merryn

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