Barclays finance chief heads for the exit

News of senior staff departures comes as chief executive faces grilling by MPs
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The Independent Online

Chris Lucas is to quit Barclays after nearly six years as finance director at the bank.

His departure comes as Barclays' new chief executive Antony Jenkins is battling to move the bank on from scandals such as the rigging of Libor interest rates and mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI), as well as investigations into its fundraisings at height of the financial crisis in 2008 which saw the Gulf state Qatar provide the bank with a £6bn lifeline.

Mr Lucas, who has been ill in recent months, has been in talks with Mr Jenkins about retiring since before Christmas and is expected to leave the bank in the coming year.

Barclays last night confirmed it is appointing headhunters to find a replacement for Mr Lucas and for Mark Harding, the bank's long-standing general counsel, who also wants to retire.

The news comes at the start of a vital fortnight for Mr Jenkins, who will be grilled by MPs on the Commission for Banking Standards tomorrow with the bank's new chairman, the governance expert Sir David Walker. He will also face investors at a strategy day next week – when he is also unveiling the bank's results – where he will give details of his "Transform" vision for how Barclays will look in the future.

He is expected to emphasise the role of the high street retail bank although the investment side, championed by his predecessor Bob Diamond, is seen as too profitable to be axed completely. About 2,000 jobs, however, are expected to go there and controversial divisions such as the bank's agricultural commodities trading and its tax planning unit are likely to be closed down. The bank is also believed to be looking at tapping the capital markets again with a possible £2bn bond to put a stop to questions over its balance sheet strength.

The chief executive has already told staff to abide by a new code of conduct that stresses integrity and service, or to get out. Mr Jenkins waived his right to a bonus, which could have been more than £1m, last week given the "multiple issues of our making besetting the bank" in the past year. Other senior managers, including Mr Lucas, have also given up last year's bonuses.

However, Mr Jenkins' attempts to consign Barclays' troubles to the past suffered a fresh blow last week when it emerged that the Serious Fraud Office and the Financial Services Authority are investigating allegations that Barclays lent money to Qatar when the Gulf emirate injected £6bn into the bank at the height of the financial crisis in 2008. If they conclude Barclays lent money to support its own shares it could lead to criminal charges.

Barclays last summer admitted that four managers, including Mr Lucas, were being investigated by the FSA over whether sufficient disclosures were made about fees it paid in the capital raising involving Qatar. However, the news of Mr Lucas's departure is understood not to be connected to the investigations.

Mr Lucas, who joined from the accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers, is the last of the top Barclays executives who led the bank through the financial crisis. Mr Diamond, who was chief executive for 18 months after John Varley retired, quit last summer amid the Libor scandal as did Marcus Agius, who arrived as Barclays chairman shortly before the Qatari fund raising.