Barclays chief set for grilling

BARCLAYS chief executive John Varley is expected to echo president Bob Diamond’s defence of big banks when he appears before the Treasury Select Committee tomorrow.

Varley, who will be quizzed as part of the committee’s “too important to fail” inquiry into the banking sector, will insist that large institutions with the ability to buy and sell cross-border risk are essential to the running of capital markets.

He is expected to resist the suggestion that retail operations should be hived off from riskier activities such as proprietary trading, as put forward by US President Obama in his “Volcker rule”.

The 52-year-old executive became the first industry figure to publicly apologise after the collapse of Lehman Brothers in autumn 2008.

A former solicitor, Varley has worked for Barclays since 1982 and is seen as a cautious character. He is a Roman Catholic and counts walking and fishing among his hobbies.

In November, Varley said banks needed to appreciate taxpayers’ support, adding: “My belief is that the work of banks is important to the economies of the world, and is therefore important to society.

But with that role goes the obligation to conduct our business responsibly and to support economic progress.”

Also due to be interrogated by MPs in the coming weeks are Gerald Corrigan, US chairman of Goldman Sachs, Santander CEO Alfredo Saenz and HSBC chairman Stephen Green.