Beware, Barclays bankers: John "Mack the Knife" McFarlane is on a roll

Emma Haslett
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John McFarlane is known for his no-holds-barred attitude to hiring and firing (Source: Barclays)
It was exactly a week to the day since John McFarlane, Barclays’ new chairman, claimed his first scalp, chief executive Antony Jenkins. Today his influence was felt again, after the imminent departure of deputy chairman Sir Mike Rake was revealed in rather chaotic fashion this morning.
BT chairman and Confederation of British Industry president Rake will join payments processing company Worldpay at the beginning of September, he confirmed - stepping down after nine years on Barclays’ board.
McFarlane isn’t known as “Mack the Knife” for nothing: his no-holds-barred attitude to hiring and firing, as demonstrated during his previous roles at Aviva and Citi, is infamous.
But now he’s cleared the decks at the top, does that mean other Barclays bosses - of both the executive and non-executive variety - should be worried?
Yep, said David Buik, a markets analyst at Panmure Gordon - particularly if they’re regarded as “safe”.
“[Rake] is the quintessential chairman, a safe pair of hands - but the last thing on earth McFarlane wants is a safe pair of hands.
“This bloke makes no mistakes. He is as tough as teak. What he wants is a go-getter, dynamic businessman who can sell. And [someone] who can produce Barclays as the bank everyone wants to do business with.”
Jenkins’ ousting carries one message, agreed Gary Greenwood, a UK banks analyst at Shore Capital: those at the top at the bank should be afraid. Very afraid.
“He’ll want results and if he doesn’t get results then people will need to be replaced. We’ve already seen that with Jenkins.
“You set your stall out: you get rid of the guy at the top first and everybody knows you’re not messing.”
At the top of McFarlane’s list is likely to be those complicit in the creation of the bank’s 350-odd management committees.
“What he’s trying to get away from, which unfortunately fell into the hands of establishment management, is [those] committees,” said Buik
“All you need is 10 committees - and you want doers.”
Rake had been leading the search for the new chief executive, although yesterday he told City A.M. that the appointment may take “months”. A Barclays spokesman said if Rake’s departure comes before a new boss is found, the new senior independent director will take over.

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