Diamond: We have to stop saying sorry

BARCLAYS boss Bob Diamond came out fighting at a high-profile public hearing yesterday, insisting it was time for banks to stop apologising for the financial crisis.

Appearing before an influential group of MPs, Diamond said “the period of remorse and apology” that followed the banking meltdown needed to end.

“The biggest issue is ‘How do we put some of the blame game behind us?’ There’s been apologies and remorse – now we need to build some confidence,” he said during a session with the Treasury select committee.

Diamond also batted away demands that he waive his bonus for the third year in a row, adding that any decision on whether or not to accept a payout – believed to be between £6m and £10m – would be made with his family.

The two-and-a-half hour session was at times fiery, with several MPs using their questions to attack Diamond’s character and the reputation of Barclays.

However, Diamond struck a defiant tone, insisting he was proud of his record at Barclays Capital.

He also defended Barclays’ attempt to buy ABN Amro in 2007, explaining that the all-stock offer was completely different from the disastrous cash deal which was eventually done by RBS.

Diamond said he did not expect Barclays to quit the UK but that he couldn’t give “cast iron guarantees”.

Bob Diamond on...

Banks should never again be bailed out by the taxpayer. There should be resolution and recovery plans – also known as “living wills” – which would allow a bank to fail without hurting the wider economy. Barclays is proud that it didn’t accept a “penny of taxpayers’ money” during the crisis.

Barclays paid £2bn in tax last year to HMRC and has paid £12.5bn over the last six years. It does help its clients to reduce their tax bills, because it has an obligation to serve them in the most tax efficient way.

Barclays has no intention of leaving the UK, although it can’t offer any cast-iron guarantees on whether it will stay in London.

The Prime Minister and chancellor are right to cut public spending to reduce the deficit. It is time to “pass the mantle of growth to the private sector and to the banks”.

Barclays is financially stronger because it is a universal bank. The failures at HBOS had nothing to do with prop trading and everything to do with “vanilla” banking – lending to individuals and businesses. Higher profits in investment banking have helped Barclays offset writedowns in retail and corporate. If this diversification existed in the Irish banks, they wouldn’t be so troubled.