Barclays shareholders rally behind beleaguered boss

Simon Jack
Business editor


Getting rid of Barclays chief executive Jes Staley would be bad for Barclays and bad for UK banking.

That's the view of some current and former shareholders who tell me that not only would Barclays suffer if the US boss was pushed out during his so-far successful turnaround of the 360-year-old bank but also, weakening the UK's last major investment bank would be bad for the entire UK financial landscape.

Jes Staley is under investigation by authorities for twice trying to identify the author of a letter raising questions about Staley's decision to recruit an old colleague from his JP Morgan days who had been through personal issues that had led to "erratic behaviour". You can read more about the circumstances surrounding that episode here.

The Staley case is seen as an early and important test of new rules governing the conduct of senior managers designed to improve behaviour, accountability and culture. Those new rules are clear that whistleblowers should be protected as they are a valuable source of information on potential wrongdoing.

Barclays was the poster child for failings in these areas under another US boss, Bob Diamond, who was ousted after losing the support of the Bank of England after a series of scandals - including the rigging of key financial benchmarks.

One City source told me - "replacing Jes Staley with another FCA-approved (the regulator) apparatchik would be a disaster".

That's a reference to "Saint" Antony Jenkins - a mild mannered man from the quiet world of retail banking - who was brought in after Bob Diamond as an antidote to the buccaneering, risk-taking and rule bending of the Diamond era. He had the blessing of the Bank of England but he was subsequently sacked for failing to improve the bank's financial performance fast enough.

The board - and in particular, the chairman, John McFarlane - would like to keep Staley. Without an investment banker at the helm, the UK's last surviving big investment bank would lose the momentum it has started to regain according to some shareholders.

The Financial Conduct and Prudential Regulation authorities will examine the case and their findings will ultimately determine whether Staley can stay.

But as things stand, I'm told the board of Barclays looks unlikely to make Staley jump before it is pushed.