James Moore: Knights jousting for Barclays show that it is still living in the past

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The Independent Online

Outlook Antony Jenkins was the belle of the ball after declaring he was "shredding" the legacy bequeathed to the bank by former chief executive Bob Diamond at a hearing of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards.

The trouble is, talk like that is cheap unless it is backed up both by action and a genuine change in thinking. Whether the thinking at Barclays has really changed all that much is open to question.

Last week Sir John Sunderland, the chairman of Barclays' remuneration committee, declared that even with the benefit of hindsight he would still have paid Mr Diamond a bonus for 2011.

This was the year in which the bank missed Mr Diamond's own targets and moved him to describe the performance as "unacceptable". What we also now know – with hindsight – is that regulators were at the time uncovering attempts by traders at Mr Diamond's investment bank to fix Libor interest rates.

If you need to remind yourself about just how sickening their behaviour was, go back and read the final decision notice of the Financial Services Authority. And it hasn't been the only scandal to emerge.

For Sir John to make such a statement is fairly incredible in itself, but it needs to be seen in conjunction with his performance. He spoke to the Commission's members as if they were errant schoolchildren who didn't know what they were talking about. It was an astonishing display, and an example of the sort of thinking in banking which has brought us to the current state of affairs.

And yet, after initially saying he didn't want to talk about "history", Barclays' chairman, Sir David (they do like their knighthoods at the top of Barclays) Walker, basically said Sir John was a jolly good chap doing a tough job well.

He also resorted to the tired old line about there being an international market for top British executives (it's scarcely borne out by the facts) and the importance of paying up to recruit and retain top talent. Top talent like Mr Diamond? Not to mention a long list of failed banking executives, some of whom make Mr Diamond seem like a paragon of virtue, and all of whom were held up as being uniquely talented people who might be lured abroad if their employers didn't pay.

Sir David has been sold as a new broom, a man capable of fresh thinking and of helping Mr Jenkins to turn Barclays into the first-class bank which it still has the capacity to be.

I've no doubt that he believes what he says when he talks about the need for reform. But his display suggests that his thinking isn't as far removed from the leading lights of a banking industry that was dashed on the rocks of its own hubris in 2008 as we might have hoped.