Hector Sants takes 'stress leave' from Barclays role
Former FSA head is latest banking executive to step aside after suffering exhaustion
Jim Armitage is the City editor of The Independent and London Evening Standard group of newspapers. He has been a reporter and editor for more than 20 years and was recently shortlisted for the Press Gazette financial journalist of the year and The Society of Editors financial journalist of the year awards. He contributes news, investigative reports and comment to the Independent titles plus a daily column in the Evening Standard.
Wednesday 16 October 2013
Sir Hector Sants, one of the most senior bankers of his generation, has become the latest top executive forced to quit temporarily due to stress.
Sir Hector, formerly the chief executive of the regulator the Financial Services Authority, is taking three months off from his post at Barclays as head of compliance at a time when it has been through a host of legal and regulatory scandals.
It was a shock move reminiscent of the temporary stepping-back of Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio in 2011. A Barclays spokesman said Sir Hector's decision to step back was due to a diagnosis of "exhaustion and stress". His illness will inevitably give rise to renewed calls for the high stress levels of City workers to be dealt with.
Sir Hector, who is thought to be on a £3m deal, was one of the chief architects of banking regulatory policy through the global financial crisis, and took on his post at Barclays in January.He is expected to be off work for about three months, not returning until the new year.
The career banker bore the brunt of many bruising encounters with politicians on the Treasury Select Committee during the financial crisis as the regulator took the blame for inadequate supervision of nationalised Northern Rock's risky business model. Friends at Barclays pointed out how he had leaped into his high-octane post at Barclays after five intense years at the regulator without really having taken any time to rest.
The Barclays position was a huge challenge, with Sir Hector tasked with preparing a bank for a new generation of global regulations. His department has grown by several hundred staff in London and New York in recent months as the organisation grapples with the plethora of new rules. Meanwhile, pressure on the bank to be seen to comply with best practice has never been greater amid scandals like the Libor fixing affair and allegations of improper payments in Qatar during Barclays' fundraising efforts there in 2008.
He was also closely involved with the recent £5.8bn rights issue – a stressful and massive project forced upon Barclays suddenly by regulators who claimed it did not have big enough capital buffers. Meanwhile, the Financial Times reported there had been "fractious" relationships with some senior colleagues – allegations that Barclays denied. Insiders said that his health had recently been worsening.
Sir Hector's illness raised questions over whether his boss, new chief executive Antony Jenkins, was driving his senior staff too hard. Mr Jenkins has staked his reputation on cleaning up the image of the bank with regulators and the public.
Banks have taken measures since the financial crisis to help alleviate dangerously high stress levels among staff. However, only last month, the father of a Bank of America Merrill Lynch intern who died after working three all-nighters in a row, declared not enough was being done to deal with the City's long-hours culture.
Prior to his positions at the regulator and the Bank of England, Sir Hector had held senior posts in the private sector, running Credit Suisse First Boston's European operations.
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