Monday, February 11, 2013

A "roadmap for success" shows Barclays has a lot to learn about transparency

In his Telegraph column, Barclays' Anthony Jenkins was long the sort of rhetoric that indicates there will be no fundamental change at Barclays and short the "commitment to real change" that voluntarily providing ultra transparency would bring about.

Everyone, including senior management and the Board of Directors at Barclays, knows that sunshine is the best disinfectant for bad behavior and is the single most effective tool for promoting cultural change in a bank.

When it comes to banks, transparency is the foundation for both trust and establishing a culture that puts the needs of society ahead of banker pay.

Yet, nowhere in his column does Mr. Jenkins remotely hint that Barclays would actually undertake real change and begin to voluntarily disclose its current global asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.

Instead, Mr. Jenkins goes overboard on platitudes and tries to assure the reader they can trust his platitudes will change the culture of Barclays.

No they won't.  Platitudes won't change the firm today, tomorrow or in a hundred years.

Through its manipulation of Libor, its mis-selling of insurance and interest rate swaps, and its numerous other examples of bad banker behavior, Barclays has shown that banker pay comes first from the board room to the teller window and around the globe.

The use of platitudes is just the latest sign of the extent of the rot in Barclays' culture.

Market participants do not owe it to Mr. Jenkins or Barclays to ever trust or do business with the firm again.  Clearly, the unwillingness to embrace transparency shows that Barclays has something to hide.

The clear message in Mr. Jenkins column is that Barclays reserves the right to take advantage of anyone who is a client or counter-party.
When I appeared before the Parliamentary Com­mittee on Banking Standards last week, I was confronted with a catalogue of mistakes and shortcomings of the industry and Barclays itself in recent years. 
These were not mistakes.  Manipulating Libor and mis-selling insurance and interest rate swaps was done intentionally.  Mistakes suggests these actions were akin to not putting enough change into a parking meter.
It was clear from the Committee that there is a deeply-held scepticism about the desire for fundamental change within banking.
Such scepticism is understandable. The bad news about banking shows little sign of abating....
The industry did not lose its way.  It behaved like this in the run-up to the Great Depression too!

The institutions that lost their way were the policymakers and the financial regulators.  They knew what the banking industry was capable of if they failed to insure transparency in every corner of the financial system, including the banks.

Bankers did what they are inclined to do.  It was the policymakers and financial regulators who failed to prevent this behavior.

Why did policymakers and financial regulators fail to prevent this behavior, because the leadership of the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve decided that a policy of financial failure containment was preferable to a policy of financial failure prevention.
The financial crisis exposed the folly of this approach. The consequences for the industry and, of course, for the wider economy were disastrous. 
The financial crisis most definitely exposed the folly of the approach of financial failure containment.
The sceptics believe that the crisis has not yet triggered the fundamental reappraisal that the sector as a whole needs and George Osborne last week demanded.....
The sceptics are right because nowhere do we see an acknowledgement by the policymakers and financial regulators that the policy of financial failure containment utterly failed and that there is a need to re-adopt the policy of financial failure prevention.

Until this occurs, there is no reason to think that bankers will suddenly decide not to put their pay check first.

Even when policymakers and financial regulators acknowledge their mistake and re-adopt the policy of financial failure prevention, this is not going to change bankers from putting their pay check first.  What  the policy of financial failure prevention does is it brings transparency to all the opaque corners of the financial system, including banks, and puts a brake on what bankers can do to make money.
Even now, there are some who believe the current storms will blow over. They are hunkering down waiting for life to return to normal. They think that as financial performances improve when the economy rebounds, the regulatory pressures and demands for changes in behaviour will melt away. 
They have got it badly wrong. This is not a cyclical shift we are witnessing but a permanent, fundamental, change affecting the economy, the environment in which we operate and the behaviour of our customers...
So long as the policymakers and financial regulators retain the policy of financial failure containment, the bankers who think life will return to normal are right.  After all, one of the goals of the policy of financial failure containment is to return the banks to their previous condition.
We are kidding ourselves, too, if we think the tougher regulatory framework nationally and globally is temporary. We saw from the Chancellor’s speech last week that there is, rightly, no lessening in the determination to prevent any repeat of past mistakes. We would be very foolish to underestimate the commitment to change.... 
Please, in the US, the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation was written by and for the banking industry by its lobbyists.  The same is occurring in the UK.

All of the legislation is focused on supporting the failed policy of financial failure containment.

You don't get real change until the policy focuses on the policy of financial failure prevention!
Since taking over as chief executive,...
We have distilled our purpose down to helping people achieve their ambitions in the right way. We have established five core values – respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship....
Please note the lack of transparency.  As in, one of Barclays' core values is that at all times and in every product it provides, it will be transparent.

The puts the burden on Barclays to ensure that its customers and counter-parties have access to all the useful, relevant information in an appropriate, timely manner so they can independently assess this information and make a fully informed decision.

In the absence of transparency, respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship are simply platitudes.
On Tuesday, I turn to the second element with a series of announcements on our business strategy. Over the past few months, we have looked at every aspect of our business against the challenges of this new environment. 
In each area we have considered what we want to achieve and how we intend to do it. We have broken the bank down into 75 business units and examined both their potential to generate sustainable profit and their ability to inflict reputational damage. 
It has been the most fundamental and complete review of any bank’s operations. It will set out what we will and will not do in the future....
Until Barclays provides ultra transparency, nobody cares how the deck chairs are rearranged inside what is the Titanic.

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