Nick Goodway: Barclays boss must try to argue that investment banking is good for us
Outlook: Antony Jenkins has started to look more and more like his predecessors... he is Barclays through and through
Friday 28 December 2012
For once Barclays could have done without the headline that proclaimed it the top bank in terms of UK investment banking revenues in 2012. But that's where Dealogic put it, with revenues of $297m (£184m), leapfrogging it from third to first place ahead of the likes of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, HSBC and Morgan Stanley. Barclays also enjoyed its biggest slice of the investment bank wallet, at 9.4 per cent – its highest ever share.
The news comes as a poll of MPs showed that more than two-thirds of them think that investment banking and high street banking should be separated by much more than the ringfence proposed in the Banking Reform Bill.
Indeed, the Ipsos Mori poll suggests that many MPs want to go further than the "electrified" ringfence proposed by the MP Andrew Tyrie, who heads the Commission on Banking Standards, which reported last week.
Pressure is building on the Chancellor, George Osborne, to make it clear at least that his ringfence will be topped with razor wire and be impenetrable to even the hardest of bankers.
For as Mr Tyrie warned: "Over time the ringfence will be tested and challenged by the banks. For the ringfence to succeed banks need to be discouraged from gaming the rules. All history tells us they will do this unless incentivised not to."
There can be little doubt that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable will do everything they can to try to force the Government to revisit the Vickers' Independent Banking Commission, which drew back from recommending full separation of retail and investment banks à la Glass-Steagall following intensive lobbying by those self-same banks. Messrs Clegg and Cable know that this is one area where there is actually greater support for more radical action among Tory MPs than there is among Labour. Certainly Tories in marginal seats have already worked out that banker bashing is still a vote winner, whatever the banking industry might have hoped.
Which brings us back to Barclays. 2012 was pretty much its annus horribilis. It was first out of the traps with a then record £290m of fines over Libor fixing. It upped its bill for mis-selling payment protection insurance by £700m to £2bn. It is facing another £291m potential fine for allegedly rigging the Californian electricity market, which it says it will fight all the way.
And along the way it lost its chief executive, Bob Diamond, its chairman, Marcus Agius, and its chief operating officer, Jerry del Missier. Surely no coincidence that all three men came solidly from investment banking backgrounds.
Antony Jenkins' appointment as chief executive was widely welcomed. The man who ran global retail banking for Barclays would show those casino bankers which way was up. He could take a high moral ground, particularly if it was conveniently forgotten that he was actually in the driving seat of the high street part of the bank while it was happily selling PPI to people who did not need it and could never claim on it.
But in the four months he has been in situ and with two months to go until he discloses his master plan for repairing Barclays' image, Mr Jenkins has started to look more and more like his predecessors. He is Barclays through and through. He believes strongly in a universal bank which should be able to offer clients services from either side of the ringfence. He has told shareholders who pointed out how strongly rival UBS's share price reacted when it said it was cutting back on investment banking that he has no intention of giving away the BarCap franchise.
Now his task will be to convince the lawmakers and the public that Barclays being number one in investment banking is not just good for the bank and its shareholders but also for UK plc. That will be a tough one to sell.
Struggling shops need a break on business rates
One in nine shops on our high streets is now empty, according to the latest data from the British Retail Consortium. In some areas it is even worse than that, with one in five shops in Northern Ireland empty, 15.1 per cent empty in Wales, and 14.6 per cent in the North and Yorkshire.
By linking increases in business rates to the retail prices index the Treasury has added a cool £500m to shopkeepers' bills over the last two financial years. Once again, based on September's RPI of 2.6 per cent, retailers face another £200m more on their rates bill this coming year. That extra money can come from only three places. Customers – who are already suffering the pinch. Profits – at a time when investors are jumpy enough about retailers. Wages – which in reality would mean cutting jobs, not pay packets.
Freezing business rates on shops for at least this year could potentially do far more good than any tinkering by Mary Portas, and certainly more than the £200m into the Treasury coffers it will achieve.
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