As a former BarCap employee and in the wake of recent events, I feel I should write in defence of both my former employers and the now departed Bob Diamond. The actions of those involved in the Libor scandal are shocking but they were no more than a symptom of that tumultuous period of greed and fear which overwhelmed both the banking industry and society in general. Nonetheless all Barclays employees have now been tarred with the same brush and the investment bank unfairly portrayed as a corrupt casino infested with champagne swilling bankers.
In my experience and despite all the sensationalist stories BarCap was a great place to work. The employees were well looked after (perhaps a little too well in some cases) and I found it an excellent bank at which to develop my career. Naturally there was a constant pressure to perform and there were plenty of ruthless characters but that’s what you’d expect in any Investment bank. Despite this the majority of employees weren’t working in a climate of fear and my former colleagues tended to favour soft drinks or a pint of beer rather than a bottle of Bollinger.
As for Bob he commanded a degree of loyalty from his employees after steering the investment bank through the choppy water of the credit crunch relatively unscathed. Under his stewardship the investment bank was spared from swingeing job cuts that afflicted its rivals and employees continued to be well rewarded from a generous bonus pool. Thus when it was announced that he would be taking over the Barclays CEO role there was considerable relief amongst BarCap employees that one of our own was now in charge.
Bob’s problem was that he was one of first and only bankers to put his head above the parapet. He not only set out to represent Barclays but also became a vociferous defender of the whole investment banking model. Thus he soon became a lightning rod for all the hatred towards bankers in the UK and it was inevitable that if and when Barclays slipped up Bob would take the flack.
As for the accusations of greed, yes his remuneration was excessive but still paled in comparison to the pay of many FTSE 100 CEOS such as Bart Becht at Reckitt Benckiser. Furthermore he has shown a degree of honour in sacrificing his recent bonuses, especially when compared to the recalcitrant Fred Goodwin or the undignified arm twisting required to make Stephen Hester surrender his RBS bonus.
History will judge Bob harshly but I think he should be remembered as the man who had a genuine pride in both his profession and his employer and managed to build up Barclays Capital into a Tier one Investment Bank. Ultimately his downfall was his misguided and overly vocal belief in his convictions.