Dear Martin Taylor: You plan to make Barclays less stuffy, pompous and snobbish? You need all the help you can get, says an Independent journalist well versed in the ways of banks
Monday 14 March 1994
But I'm a little worried. The task of changing the culture of a monolithic bureaucracy such as Barclays is immense. And you're all alone in there. There's you - a youthful financial journalist-turned-industrialist parachuted in by shareholders fed up with the bank's dismal financial performance - and 100,000 suspicious clearing bankers.
The pressure to go native will be immense. You'll find yourself wanting to discard your floral silk ties in favour of a polyester Rotary Club number and become one of the boys (and at the top of Barclays they're almost all boys). Resist it.
You'll wonder whether it's not easier to go with the flow, adopt the unspoken clearer's 3-6-3 rule: borrow at 3 per cent, lend at 6 (or these days 16), and be on the golf course by 3pm. Stand firm.
You may come to feel: what's the point of trying to improve things for customers when you're on a guaranteed pounds 737,500-a-year salary before performance-related bonuses? Fight it. Think of your millions of ordinary account-holders.
You're our great hope. The only way the high-street banks are going to improve their lousy, shoddy service is through a fundamental change in attitude among their staff, starting at the top.
Remember when we spoke last summer after your appointment was announced? You told me airily that clearing bankers were pretty much like anyone else: 'The way some people talk, you'd think they were an entirely different species.'
I hope you're still as sanguine, but I suspect you've discovered a stubborn strain of Jobsworth complacens in the bank alongside Homo sapiens.
You've already made enemies. Paying more than pounds 100m in bonuses to a few people in your investment banking division has infuriated the bulk of staff in the main high-street bank, especially since you're planning to cut 5,000 jobs.
Yes, I know these high-street bankers live in an unreal world. You come from an industry where hatchet-wielding is second nature. During your spell at Courtaulds Textiles, you closed 20 out of the company's 23 spinning mills, sending thousands to the dole queues.
You do have to shake up the job-for-life attitude, but please get rid of the right people, not those at the sharp end, serving customers. (Look at the NHS reforms, under which administrators are growing like cancer.)
You're only 41 and have no banking experience. The closest you came was as a writer on the Lex column in the Financial Times. Your age and inexperience really stick in the gullet of some of your career-banker colleagues. Your erudition, brain-power and assured Old Etonian manner get up their noses, too.
So stick to your guns, but tread softly, and watch your back.
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