View from City Road: Why are we waiting, Mr Buxton?

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Where is that new chief executive of Barclays we have been awaiting for six months? A theory now highly fashionable among bankers senior enough (they hope) to be on the headhunters' lists for the post is that Andrew Buxton, the chairman, is backing out of making the appointment.

Not true, say senior Barclays directors, who are confident the appointment will be made in time for the half-year figures at the beginning of August, six weeks away.

Indeed, they claim Andrew Buxton's wife will be the first to create a scene if he does not split the job soon, since his working hours now confirm what shareholders told him a year ago - that the combined job is too big.

Despite directors' confidence that the search is on schedule, getting the appointment right without losing his senior lieutenants remains the first and most daunting test of Mr Buxton's chairmanship.

A weak chief executive sandwiched between an executive chairman in charge of strategy and the barons who run the bank's main divisions will be worse than useless. To do the job properly, the new chief executive must grasp the reins firmly, and try to keep Mr Buxton's existing team intact, a horribly difficult task. The harsh fact is that Mr Buxton may be faced with a departure or two as the cost of getting the structure right.

The odds remain in favour of an outside appointment, probably not a banker but certainly someone with experience of financial institutions.

But that will be a hard fish to catch. Top managers in other companies may be happy to talk about job moves, but once it gets down to contract negotiations there can be no certainty about a deal until the person walks through the door, especially with a job as fraught with complications as this one.

An insider - perhaps David Band, the chief executive of Barclays de Zoete Wedd - cannot be ruled out if the external search falters. But if Mr Band gets the job, it will be seen for what it is - the fallback position.