View from City Road: Barclays chief serves up fudge

FUDGE is no way to run any company, let alone a clearing bank. Yet this is what Andrew Buxton is doing at Barclays Bank.

Having previously promised to split the jobs of chairman and chief executive, he now says there may be no chief executive after all. Instead, there might be a chief operating officer.

The difference might sound small but it could be significant. What would the chief operating officer's job be? Would he be responsible for running the existing company? What about strategy? Would that be Mr Buxton's job? Who should take the blame if an acquisition went wrong?

It is the job of non-executive directors, including Lord Lawson, Sir Derek Birkin of RTZ, Sir Denys Henderson of ICI and Sir Nigel Mobbs of Slough Estates, to give answers to these questions.

Large shareholders can hardly complain about the fudge. If they were not so ambivalent about the chairman/chief executive split in general, the issue would never have arisen at Barclays. Mr Buxton would have had to choose between the top jobs at the outset.

Fund managers point out, rightly, that Marks & Spencer and Guinness have been both successful and run by a single boss. Put another way, none of them has been prepared to sell shares in M&S or Guinness because Sir Richard Greenbury and Tony Greener combine the top jobs.

They are not, however, happy about the dual role in companies that have just announced huge losses, cut their dividend or revealed a stunning lack of risk controls - all of which they have seen at Barclays.

In the absence of a blanket ban - Cadbury backed away from one - shareholders have to make up their minds about each case on its merits. Few are concerned about Martin Taylor combining the top jobs at Courtaulds. But they are less sanguine about Stephen Walls taking over at Albert Fisher - he has no plans to take on a chief executive or managing director for another 18 months - and Rocco Forte, who, as well as taking the top jobs at the hotels company, is doing away with the divisional offices, so gathering more power to head office. Each day brings new dual appointments. Yesterday, Michael Doherty added the chairman's role to that of chief executive at Norcros.

At least investors will know who to blame at Guinness, M&S, Courtaulds, Fisher, Forte and Norcros if things go wrong. They cannot say the same about Barclays.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk