Tuesday, February 5, 2013

UK banking standards commission sees through Barclay's rhetoric and call for real change

As reported by the Guardian, the UK's commission on banking standards saw through the rhetoric about change offered by Barclays new CEO and asked for real proof of change.

To drive home this point, the head of the commission, Andrew Tyrie, waived around a report that Barclays had heavily redacted by blacking out paragraphs.

This was a none to subtle suggestion that Barclays adopt ultra transparency as the cornerstone of its efforts to change its culture and become a 'socially useful' bank.

Antony Jenkins told MPs that he would resign if another scandal on the scale of the Libor rate scam erupted during his tenure, vowing to transform a bank that he described as an aggressive and self-serving institution under its former chief executive. 
In an appearance at the banking standards commission, he said: "We are shredding that legacy and in the value of stewardship, whoever is sitting in front of a committee in a decade's time – I want them to have inherited a fundamentally different culture." 
He added: "We should shred those behaviours of the past, we should shred situations where we're short-termist, too aggressive and too self-centred. It's those things I want to eliminate from our culture."
Ultra transparency is the key for Mr. Jenkins to reach his goal.

With ultra transparency, Barclays will be disclosing on an ongoing basis its current global asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.  This will usher in sunlight which is the best disinfectant for bad banker behavior like manipulating a bench mark interest rate.
However, MPs and Lords on the inquiry remained unconvinced and said the company must do more to show it is changing its ways. 
The Committee chairman, Andrew Tyrie MP, said: "It doesn't really matter what the scandal is – Barclays seems to have a finger in every one of those pies."
He was also critical of Barclays' initial refusal to provide unedited information. 
Waving a redacted document covered in blacked-out paragraphs, he said: "We asked for full papers and frankly it has been very hard getting them... Even the page numbers have been redacted."...
Please re-read the highlighted text as it is obvious from Mr. Tyrie's comments that he and the commission know that the only way real change will occur at Barclays is if Barclays starts to provide ultra transparency.

When a bank is committed to providing ultra transparency, it is saying that it can stand on its own two feet.

A bank that can stand on its own two feet has nothing to hide from market participants or a parliamentary commission (a bank providing ultra transparency would never send over a heavily redacted document).
But Tyrie expressed doubts that the cultural change sought by Jenkins can be achieved by the current board. He said: "Doesn't it seem that the time has come to set your remuneration strategy in a new framework led by a new [remuneration committee] chairman?"...
One of the great things about providing ultra transparency is that it naturally leads to the bank linking remuneration to the risk being taken.
Full turnaround plans for the bank under Jenkins will be unveiled next week, including a new five-point plan for determining bonuses, which must take into accountupholding values as well as financial performance. 
However, Tyrie said the commission would reserve judgement on whether Barclays has changed....
After all, what Mr. Jenkins is proposing is long on rhetoric and short on real substance.

In fact, anything less than adopting ultra transparency is short on real substance when it comes to changing the culture and making Barclays a social useful bank.
Tyrie said yesterday: "We don't seem to be getting very far in thinking through how we can have confidence that the non-executives in Barclays are going to be carrying the right culture. What we want is some more concrete evidence that the board is being put in a shape that can help give you a chance of succeeding."
The only way to have confidence that the non-executives in Barclays are going to be carrying the right culture is if Barclays adopts ultra transparency.  This exposes their activities to sunlight and discourages unacceptable behavior.

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