AS AN investment banking doyen continually under the cosh these days with regard to bonus payments, it must be tough to keep a calm and unruffled façade at all times.
Bob Diamond, the president of Barclays and head of its money-spinning investment bank Barclays Capital – yesterday kept mostly schtum at the group’s annual results press presentation, preferring to leave the explaining to chief executive John Varley.
But after a good hour on the podium, the strain began to show as the first four questions directed at Varley centred around the bank’s remuneration.
“My boss has been very patient,” Diamond huffed at the gathered hacks, “but if you’ve decided the story is all about compensation, you should have written your stories before you even came… In all aspects of our business, we’re being very responsible in how we compensate people, [but] you sure seem to have an edge to your questions.”
The Capitalist would have assumed Diamond was still smarting from voluntarily eschewing his own multi-million pound annual bonus, were it not for that tidy little £22m he pocketed from selling his shares in Barclays Global Investors last year…
Speaking of Barclays, another snippet from Varley himself regarding how best to predict the economic cycle.
Varley, you see, has long been renowned in the City as a keen table-tennis player, challenging his staff to regular contests at the ping pong table. But after a turbulent time for the banking industry, Varley admits his game has taken a bit of a knock.
“I’ve played very little over the last few years, far less than I should have done,” he mused yesterday. “Perhaps that could be a leading indicator of economic recovery?”
The Capitalist’s sympathies go out to Rothschild’s Tony Titcombe, a veteran of the bank for the past 25 years, who has just returned from a solo rowing trip across the Atlantic in support of Help for Heroes. A former Royal Marine, Titcombe was just 240 miles into his 2,500 mile quest last week when his boat was hit by nasty weather, causing irreparable damage to the rudder.
“It is disappointing, particularly as the weather window to attempt the trip is only from December to February due to the hurricane season,” the intrepid chap tells me, nursing his sore palms back at work. “But next year, all things permitting, I’ll be trying my hand at it for a second time.” Best of luck to him.
Is there no bounds to the interest in footballer John Terry’s alleged sordid affairs? I hear from Nick Pocock – a former founder of spread betting firm Sporting Index and ex-chairman of Hampshire County Cricket Club – of ripples on the horizon at his new business, sports sponsorship hedging firm Hedgehog Cover.
Pocock tells me he was on the verge of sealing a promotional contract with a telecoms firm in the Far East last week – with the aim of offering promotional rewards to customers if England wins the World Cup and Terry scores a goal in the final – when everything broke down.
“In came a message saying: ‘As Terry has been pulling everything in sight, we’ll have to follow his lead and pull the promotion ourselves’,” Pocock mutters. Ouch.
FIT FOR A QUEEN
Royalists – and we are sure the City has a few – should make a note in the diary for next Wednesday, when the Queen is due to visit the humble streets of the Square Mile for an impromptu celebration of the figures behind the scenes of the financial community.
I hear Her Majesty is down to have lunch at the Gherkin on the day itself, where a dedicated team of chefs from Searcy’s 40/30 and the nearby Hoxton Apprentice restaurant are already beavering away devising a feast fit for a queen. On the menu is smoked salmon terrine with white anchovy butter, followed by loin of lamb and a best of British bread and butter pudding for dessert.