Does Barclays need a new broom or Rake in chair?
By Hugo Dixon
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Does Barclays need a new broom or Rake in the chair? The bank would ideally appoint external candidates as both chairman and chief executive to make a clean break with the Bob Diamond era. But if it can’t find a strong outsider to be chairman fast, deputy chairman Michael Rake would be a good internal appointment.
Barclays certainly needs some new people to shake up its brash culture. The snag is that the bank has become such a political football that it will be hard to attract top candidates. The most important post will be the new chief executive to replace Diamond. But the more immediate priority is to find a new chairman to replace Marcus Agius. After all, an incoming chief executive will want to know who his chairman will be; equally, an incoming chairman will want to pick his chief executive.
The new chairman needs to be tough, independent-minded and knowledgeable. He also needs to be willing to work virtually full time for perhaps 750,000 pounds a year. This is not the job for somebody who wants to get rich but for somebody who enjoys a challenge and is public-spirited. Possible candidates include Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, and Philip Hampton, RBS chairman. But it might not be easy to attract either: O’Donnell may be in line to be next governor of the Bank of England, while Hampton still has a job to do helping turn around RBS.
If there is a dearth of attractive outsiders, Rake would be a good insider. He would, of course, have to give up his existing jobs as chairman of BT and easyJet. Although Rake suffers from association with the Diamond/Agius era, he has pushed for better governance, especially since he became senior independent director last year. He was, for example, instrumental earlier this year in persuading Agius to step down to make way for a stronger chairman at some point. And he was coaching Diamond on ways of improving the bank’s confrontational relationship with regulators.
If Barclays can’t get a good new broom to clean the Agian stables, a Rake would do the job.