Barclays Gets a Quiet Leader for a Change

Antony Jenkins, a low-profile retail specialist, replaces Diamond
From left: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg; Bloomberg

As Chief Executive Officer of Barclays, Bob Diamond became a symbol of excess in the banking industry. His compensation totaled about £120 million ($190 million) from the time he joined the board in 2005. He was known for his outspoken style and counted Mick Jagger and golfer Phil Mickelson among his friends. Barclays’ new CEO, Antony Jenkins, is a low-key, collegial consumer banker who runs marathons and outlasted rivals to win the top job. “In Jenkins you’ve got the archetypal English CEO who is seen as rather safe, compared with the typically aggressive U.S. investment banker that was Bob Diamond,” says Alan Beaney, investment director at R.C. Brown Investment Management in Bristol, England. “His appointment signals that the bank is not going to be as brazen as it has been in the past.”

Jenkins, 51, is taking over at Barclays, the U.K.’s second-largest bank, after it paid a record £290 million for interest-rate manipulation, which led to the resignation of Diamond, Chairman Marcus Agius, and Chief Operating Officer Jerry Del Missier in July. Jenkins must rebuild trust with regulators while convincing investors that he can maintain profitability in the glare of more intrusive regulation and political oversight. “I’m a transformational leader,” he says, belying his reputation for modesty. “And I have every confidence that my business acumen, general experience in banking, and the skills and talents of the team we have in the investment bank will enable me to continue to take Barclays” in the right direction.

While Diamond built up Barclays’s investment bank, Jenkins is the only CEO of a global bank who doesn’t have a background in investment banking. Jenkins ran the bank’s credit card operations and then served as head of retail banking. After taking charge of Barclaycard in 2006, Jenkins replaced several senior employees at the credit card division and sold Monument, the company’s subprime lending unit, helping to improve the quality of loans. Jenkins boosted pretax profits at Barclaycard to £727 million in 2009 from £522 million in 2006, according to filings. In 2009 he was made head of retail banking. “We view Jenkins as the natural internal choice for the position,” Jason Napier and David Lock, Deutsche Bank analysts, said in a note to clients. “He is well known to the market, businesses under his care have performed well, he possesses experience within and without the group, and his reputation and retail heritage provide a base for rebuilding the bank’s reputation.”

Neither of Jenkins’ parents went to college, and his father worked two jobs, as a salesman for a U.S. abrasives company and in a gas station. At Oxford, he studied philosophy, politics, and economics. One of only a few senior U.K. bankers on a Diamond team dominated by North Americans, he avoided the scandals and strategic mistakes that undermined potential rivals. He got the job after Barclays struggled to find other suitable choices, according to Paul Myners, the U.K. financial services secretary from 2008 to 2010. There were “probably less than four credible candidates, two of whom I know were approached and turned it down almost without any serious consideration,” Myners said in an interview on Bloomberg Television, declining to identify them.

Jenkins has said in the past that the universal banking model, which incorporates investment and consumer banking within one firm, is the safest way to run a bank. “The universal banking model as operated by Barclays is an inherently more solid proposition from a risk point of view,” Jenkins said at a hearing of the U.K. government’s Future of Banking Commission in March 2010. “A well-run universal banking model is a sound banking model.”

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