Barclays Needs Time to Revamp Investment Bank, Aberdeen CEO Says

  • Martin Gilbert says bank's management is `doing right thing'
  • Lender is in a `difficult position' relative to its U.K. peers

Barclays Plc is in a “difficult position” relative to its British peers and needs time to reshape its investment bank, according to Martin Gilbert, head of one of the bank’s biggest shareholders.

“They are doing the right things, but it will take time,” Aberdeen Asset Management Plc Chief Executive Officer Gilbert said in an interview in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday. “Like all the other banks, they want to get more into fee income and more mergers and acquisitions.”

Barclays CEO Jes Staley, 59, is mulling deeper cuts at the securities unit and considering disposals around the world after taking the helm of Britain’s second-largest lender last month with a mandate to speed up asset sales and restore profit growth. He’ll give a strategic update with the bank’s full-year earnings on March 1.

More Competition

Businesses such as interest rates and currencies have become “commoditized and more competitive” across the industry, which has made it difficult for Barclays, according to Gilbert. Aberdeen owns 1.7 percent of Barclays, making it the bank’s 11th-largest investor, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Fixed income has been the large engine of growth for the all banks in the last 10 to 15 years,” Gilbert said. “It’s been tough for them in fixed income.”

As part of his review under Chairman John McFarlane, Staley must decide whether the bank’s capital is best deployed in South Africa amid slowing growth in the continent’s second-biggest economy, former deputy chairman Michael Rake has said.

Gilbert said he would support the bank’s board on whichever decision was made on its African unit. “It depends on what sort of model they want to have,” Gilbert said. “I have no preference, we will go along with whatever the board recommends.”

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