Barclays picks Taylor to lead its recovery: Appointment of Courtaulds Textiles chief ends months of uncertainty over top roles at UK's biggest bank

BARCLAYS Bank has turned to industry to help engineer its recovery, appointing Martin Taylor of Courtaulds Textiles as its new chief executive.

Yesterday's announcement ended months of uncertainty and investor pressure to split the bank's top two roles. Andrew Buxton, currently Barclays' chairman and chief executive, said Mr Taylor had shown outstanding management abilities at his present company, where he had streamlined the business and transformed it financially.

'It is a relief and a pleasure to have Martin on board. To have the appointment made will settle the group down for the future, and that is a great relief to me. There was a certain apprehension in the group, waiting for this appointment.'

Mr Taylor, 41, a celebrated high-flyer in the Courtaulds group for the past 10 years and a former financial journalist, will join the Barclays board on 1 November. But he will not take over the duties of chief executive from Mr Buxton until 1 January 1994, to ensure a smooth succession at Courtaulds Textiles.

He will bring a jaundiced view of his new world, commenting yesterday that banks had been absolutely awful at handling customer relations for the past 20 years. Turning Barclays around was 'a 10-year job', although he said the process had already started.

The appointment followed almost a year of speculation about when and with whom Mr Buxton might share the running of the bank. Investor demands for the roles to be split coincided with a downturn in Barclays' financial performance, which resulted in massive bad debts on property lending and a pounds 242m loss for 1992. The bank has since moved back into the black, with pre-tax profits of pounds 335m in the first half of this year.

Mr Buxton emphasised yesterday that Mr Taylor would run the group and work with him to formulate strategy. 'Martin Taylor will have complete responsibility for managing the executive of the group,' he said. The new chief executive would have total autonomy to implement strategy. Mr Buxton, as executive chairman, would be responsible for strategy, external relations and the bank's reputation.

Observers believe the choice of Mr Taylor for the high-profile chief executive role could be a stroke of genius for Barclays, whose image was badly tarnished by its traumatic experience during the recession. While Mr Taylor has no experience in banking, he has a sterling reputation in industry as a brilliant, dynamic and likeable businessman. Barclays shares rose 19p to 491p.

'It could be an inspired appointment,' Nick Collier, banking analyst with Morgan Stanley, said. 'He comes from an unrelated background but with a fine reputation and an intellectual rigour that can breathe fresh air into Barclays, whose management is perceived as having a degree of complacent insularity.'

Mr Buxton formally announced his intention to split the roles before he took them on in January, but a recruitment committee to find a candidate was not formed until March.

Barclays had been talking to Mr Taylor since early June and he was the only candidate to be offered the job.

The choice of a non-banker was not deliberate. 'We were looking for the best manager, not necessarily the best banker,' Mr Buxton said. 'The financial industry and banks are changing dramatically and banks are under pressure. They need every bit of management flair and new ideas they can get.'

Mr Taylor said he was irresistibly drawn to the challenge of managing Barclays. 'I'm a manager and it's an enormous management challenge,' he said.

Before accepting the job with Barclays, Mr Taylor wanted to be sure that he was not leaving Courtaulds Textiles in the lurch, and that he and Mr Buxton could work together. He said that after spending a lot of time with his new colleague, he was satisfied that they could work harmoniously.

View from City Road, page 24

(Photograph omitted)

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