Chris Blackhurst: The City may sneer at Barclays boss waiving a £2.7m bonus, but Antony Jenkins is the one in tune with the public's mood

Midweek View: Nobody knows what the future will bring. To write off millions in the hand is a brave call

All hail Antony Jenkins. For the second year in a row, Barclays' chief executive is waiving his annual bonus. In doing so, Mr Jenkins stands alone, the only one of the City's senior bankers to correctly gauge the political and public mood. Within the City, as you might expect, there is plenty of sniping in Mr Jenkins' direction.

He's a dry-as-dust technocrat, apparently, a textbook manager rather than a true leader of men. He's not one of the boys, not like Bob Diamond, his predecessor. Now, Bob, he really was a diamond, in every sense of the word. He knew the markets, loved the trading floor. Top fella, he was.

In which case, give me Mr Jenkins any day. Because what the diamond geezer left the new man was a giant pile of, there's no point in searching for a politer word, poo.

The bank was reeling from the Libor-rigging scandal that cost Barclays £290m in fines and Mr Diamond and chairman Marcus Agius their jobs. This was the one where an external trader sent a pal at Barclays a thank you email: "Dude. I owe you big time! Come over one day after work and I'm opening a bottle of Bollinger."

Barclays was also up to its neck in payment protection insurance mis-selling, and the bank was immersed in allegations it manipulated the Californian energy market. Not for nothing did Mr Jenkins, in refusing his pay-out, refer to "legacy litigation and conduct issues". That fallout shows no sign of diminishing in the year ahead. In all likelihood it is going to get a whole lot worse for Barclays. The rumour-mill is humming with talk about what may amount to the City's most high-profile criminal prosecution since the Guinness and Maxwell cases.

I refer to the continuing Serious Fraud Office investigation into Barclays' attempt to stave off going to the Government cap in hand to be rescued in 2008. Rather than fall under the control of politicians, the bank pulled off a coup by persuading Middle East investors to stump up the cash instead.

Except we now know that the £4.6bn Gulf bailout was accompanied by hidden payments from Barclays to its Arab friends of more than £300m. The money was billed as "advisory fees".

The Financial Conduct Authority has taken a look already, and indicated it will fine Barclays £50m for failing to disclose the transfers. But the FCA is only part of it – more pertinently, the Serious Fraud Office, the US Department of Justice and the US Securities and Exchange Commission are crawling all over the deal to see if the cash was tantamount to a bribe.

Barclays had revealed that the Financial Services Authority, precursor to the FCA, was investigating "four current and former senior employees, including [then finance director] Chris Lucas". Others who are under investigation include Roger Jenkins, who found the Gulf backers for the bank, and John Varley, its then CEO.

Behind the scenes in the City a drama is raging as the SFO, in particular, shows no sign of backing off. Indeed, its new boss, David Green, is thought to regard the affair as a test case for his organisation. He's sought extra cash from the Treasury to pay for the inquiry, which has seen more than 20 witnesses being interviewed.

One hold-up has presented itself in the form of Clifford Chance. The law firm, which advises Barclays, is understood to be claiming client privilege and refusing to disclose what it told the bank.

Mr Jenkins, the CEO, is of course fully aware of what is unfolding. The damage to the bank from the resulting publicity if charges are brought will be enormous. It puts into context recent moves by the bank, to end the Boris Bikes and Premier League sponsorships for instance, all intended at withdrawing Barclays from the limelight, and putting distance between the present and past regimes.

It's "legacy litigation", to use the current CEO's phrase, that could haunt the bank for years to come and, perhaps not surprisingly, he's decided that accepting a bonus against that backdrop is simply not on.

Nevertheless, he deserves praise. It's easy to dismiss his foregoing a bonus as a gimmick, as commercial pragmatism. Indeed, this is what was said when he took charge in January last year. One of his first acts was to send all 140,000 Barclays employees an email, inviting them to embrace his TRANSFORM programme, with its five core values of "respect, integrity, service, excellence and stewardship". He said: "There might be some who don't feel they can fully buy into an approach which so squarely links performance to the upholding of our values. My message to those people is simply: Barclays is not the place for you. The rules have changed. You won't feel comfortable at Barclays and, to be frank, we won't feel comfortable with you as colleagues."

What was the response of the City to his missive? A collective sneer was the politest (I leave it to you to imagine some of the gestures that were made in Mr Jenkins' direction in the Square Mile's bars). Partly, it was based on the fact that we'd been here before, that Barclays has long professed to hold such standards dear, from the principles laid down by its 17th-century Quaker founders to the six "Barclays Behaviours" promulgated in 2002 as ideals for the bank's staff under its then chief, Mr Varley.

The difference between then and now is that Mr Jenkins realises such initiatives only begin to work if those at the top are seen to be adhering to the same code. Under Mr Varley and then with Mr Diamond, Barclays may have had its "behaviours" but there was not much sense of fundamental change.

The new CEO seems determined to set an example. There is an argument that says he is going too far, that people will not want to work for a company where the chief is permanently clothed in a hair-shirt. That's the risk he takes, but taking a bonus at this juncture is a far worse option.

Still, it must be tough. Mr Jenkins has kissed goodbye to £2.7m. It's true that he earns a base of £1.1m and is in line for a long-term incentive plan that could net him £4.4m after five years, provided he breaks his targets.

But nobody knows what the future will bring. To write off £2.7m in the hand is a brave call.

If only others followed suit. The contrast between Mr Jenkins and his counterparts, all of whom preside over organisations that have experienced enormous reputational, let alone financial, damage, is stark.

They plough on regardless, busy inventing ways round the incoming bonus cap. The latest is the payment of cash or share "allowances" to senior employees, in addition to their salaries. They can be adjusted up and down each year according to performance, so, unlike salaries that must be paid, they are not a fixed cost.

Other wheezes are changing job contracts so that those hit by the bonus cap are no longer technically employed by a bank so they can avoid the new rules which are aimed squarely at banks; and turning the bonus into a loan which would only be repaid if a banker left. Both these are likely to fall foul of regulators.

The "allowances" scheme, though, is more difficult to ban and is likely to become the popular method for avoiding the restriction on bonuses.

So they remain quids in, while Mr Jenkins chooses not to be. But for all their cleverness and supposed sophistication, only one bank boss is in tune with the zeitgeist. Who might that be?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
News
Hackers revealed Oscar-winning actress Lawrence was paid less than her male co-stars in American Hustle
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Sport
Wayne Rooney warms up ahead of the English Premier League football match between Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United at White Hart Lane
football
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015