James Moore: Barclays Americas new chief will have to be worth his weight in gold - Business Comment - Business - The Independent

James Moore: Barclays Americas new chief will have to be worth his weight in gold

Outlook It seems Barclays has become the home of nominative determination, where one's name determines one's job. Former chief executive Bob Diamond could afford several mines full of them by dint of the eight-figure pay packets he used to pick up. They also helped ensure his chief lieutenant Rich Ricci lived up to his name.

The name of the man appointed to the powerful position of head of Barclays Americas follows the theme. He's called Joe Gold and he's replacing Skip McGee. Who has, well, skipped town. You couldn't make it up. Mr McGee might be a dealmaker par excellence but, thanks to regulatory reforms in the US, that no longer ticks all the boxes for the role. The most important part of which, over the next couple of years, will be ticking boxes required by US regulators and establishing a new intermediate holding company to sit around Barclays' US business.

Getting this done by mid-2016, as is required, calls for a technocrat to take charge. Someone who has the skills to deal with myriad legal, regulatory and compliance issues. The job is now basically a huge headache. Mr Gold might just be the one Barclays executive who deserves as much of it as the bank is prepared to give.

Although his earnings probably still won't be on a par with those of the men he will be reporting to. Mr McGee ran his own show, but Mr Gold will be the minion of Tom King and Eric Bommensath, co-chief executives of Barclays' corporate and investment bank. They might end up adding to his discomfort. They're under pressure to improve performance, given the justified outrage over the decision by Barclays to hike the bonuses of their investment bankers by 10 per cent even though earnings fell.

Still, their formally being handed oversight of the Americas business ought finally to kill off the speculation that they face the chop as the bank lines up a new investment banking strategy in a bid to make it work for Barclays' shareholders as well as it does for Barclays' bankers.

Realising that ambition won't be made any easier by the quagmire of regulation suffocating the US operation. Mr Gold would be well advised to buy his painkillers in bulk.

There is, of course, a rich irony in the underlying reason for the new rules Barclays Americas is having to operate under. Uncle Sam imposed the requirement for foreign banks to create new holding companies so they wouldn't be able to sweep their US businesses clean of money to buttress their centres in the wake of things going horribly wrong.

Which is what Lehman Brothers (Mr McGee's old shop) infamously did to the Brits, shortly before it went bankrupt, dragging the global financial system into an abyss from which it very nearly didn't emerge.

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