Insight: Lessons from ancient history as Barclays boss plots revival

Fri Feb 8, 2013 10:43am EST
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By Steve Slater

LONDON (Reuters) - When Barclays' new boss Antony Jenkins wanted to tell his senior bankers what was in store for them, he gathered all 125 around him on specially built tiered seats, styled like an ancient Greek agora to guarantee eye contact and conversation.

The British bank's reputation was battered and it had to change, but to transform attitudes across 140,000 staff Jenkins knew his top bankers had to buy into his plan - or quit.

Other big organizations had faced profound change and had to adapt, including Kodak and the Roman Empire, he told them. Not all of them succeeded.

To drive home his message, the away-day last November ended in a room displaying unflattering newspaper headlines about the troubles his 300-year-old bank had recently endured.

Jenkins spread his message wider to all the bank's staff last month, telling them they should leave if they do not want to sign up to the new regime. "The rules have changed," he said in a memo.

He will unveil his grand plan, dubbed Project Transform, to the wider world on Tuesday at London's Edwardian Royal Horticultural Halls, an exhibition space where daylight floods in through a high glass-vaulted ceiling.

Officially, the bank is keeping quiet about exactly what Jenkins will say. But sources say the message for investors will be his plans to boost profitability, cut underperforming areas and slash costs. That could see him axe about 2,000 investment bank jobs, almost 10 percent of its 23,300 staff, as it retreats in Asia and trims in all areas.

In an attempt to placate politicians, regulators and the public, Jenkins is expected to promise profound change in the bank's standards and culture.   Continued...

The Barclays headquarters building is seen in the Canary Wharf business district of east London February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Neil Hall