Barclays’ ruthless pursuit of profit leaves no room for Jenkins’ values

July 8, 2015

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Photo: Sean MacEntee

Photo: Sean MacEntee

Anthony Jenkins was sacked as Chief Executive of Barclays this morning, in a surprise move that sees the bank attempt to boost its profits.

Having presided over the banks well-publicised “purpose and values” rebrand, Jenkins’ sacking saw the bank’s shares rise by 3%, suggesting the market expected a more hawkish approach from new leadership.

Indeed, Barclays’ official press release spoke of the bank’s desire “to accelerate revenue, costs and capital performance” – in other words, to cut more jobs and increase their profits.

Although down by 21%, Barclays still made pre-tax profits of £2.26 billion in 2014 – despite paying out £1.1 billion for the PPI scandal alone last year.

With a fine of £3.9 billion for rigging foreign exchange markets announced less than two months ago, it’s hard to see how Barclays could squeeze out any more profit whilst continuing to pay fines for its criminal activity.

Jenkins’ tenure was hardly a success, even on his own terms. Promising to “learn from the mistakes of the past”, Barclays is now paying record fines for foreign exchange rigging, where previously it was paying record fines for Libor rigging.

Promising to “leave things better than we found them” and to “provide solutions balancing short and long term”, the bank invested over £15.6 billion in destructive fossil fuels, and is Britain’s leading bank in funding fracking. Not much balance of the long term there.

And promising to “respect and value those we work with,” Barclays’ position as the leading provider of rip-off LOBO loans to cash strapped-councils shows that the only thing the bank values is extracting profit at any cost, regardless of the impact on stakeholders.

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Anthony Jenkins’ was supposed to be a “safe pair of hands”, a banker from the day-to-day retail banking side – in contrast to his predecessor, the casino investment banker Bob Diamond. Yet if Jenkins’ attempts to clean up the bank were deemed a failure, particularly because of its impact on profitability, then what can we expect from his successor?

Ultimately, Barclays’ profits are suffering because the bank profiteered from criminal activity and was caught. Although Jenkins was no saint, his attempts to instil a measure of decency to the banks activities were laudable.

Despite ending up as little more than window dressing rather than real change, the bank was recognising its shortfalls and attempting to address them – in public, at least.

With Barclays ruthlessly sacking Jenkins in the pursuit of higher profits, expect the bank’s piousness to evaporate faster than a mirage in the desert.

Welcome to the new Barclays – same as the old Barclays.

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