Slump in morale alarms Barclays

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The Independent Online
SENIOR directors of Barclays Bank are alarmed at a slump in staff morale that they fear may harm the bank's performance. They are concerned at indications that a growing number of managers have lost confidence in the board's ability to deal with Barclays' problems.

The unexpected resignation of Peter Wood, the respected finance director, sent shock waves through Barclays' headquarters last week and exposed the simmering discontent of many of the bank's managers. Mr Wood, who is moving to become finance director of Standard Chartered, is understood to be leaving because he can no longer tolerate the working atmosphere at Barclays.

His decision is regarded as significant within the bank because, like most managers, he has spent nearly all his career there since joining in 1966.

Barclays staff are frustrated at the long-running criticism of the bank's management structure by its shareholders, and its slowness in splitting the roles of chairman and chief executive. The bank only announced last week that it had set up a committee of five non-executive directors, headed by Sir Denys Henderson, to look for a new chief executive outside Barclays.

Many managers are also angry at the refusal of Andrew Buxton, presently holding the two top roles, to take any significant blame for the huge loan losses suffered by the bank. Mr Buxton has put the blame for poor lending on managers lower down the hierarchy. Managers point out, however, that they were working within a culture and guidelines laid down by the Barclays board.

City analysts point out that a similar slump in morale among staff at National Westminster and a loss of confidence in their board contributed to the early departure of Tom Frost as chief executive last year.

Morale among Barclays staff had already been dented by a savage cost-cutting programme, including the loss of 15,000 jobs in 1992 and 1993. A further 3,000 job cuts are planned by the end of 1995.