No conspiracy, just cock-up. That seems to be the conclusion to draw from Barclays’ statement yesterday that it had managed to overshoot its regulator-agreed limits with all the reckless abandon of a student enjoying the first week of university.
In this case it was the selling of complex securities rather than discount vodka shots, but the hangover still hurts, with a half a billion pound hit as a result. With rather wonderful understatement, the bank promised it would look into the “control” environment around the error. That would seem wise.
It’s an added headache for new boss C.S. Venkatakrishnan, aka Venkat, who can at least console himself with the knowledge that Credit Suisse are still some way ahead in global banks’ race to shoot themselves in the feet. Assuming regulators do indeed conclude this was more of an innocent mistake than a sinister plot, the bank will able to move on to more pressing matters like the ongoing fallout from Jes Staley’s departure.
Last month the bank announced it was withholding bonus payments from its former CEO, who left amid an investigation into his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
That marked a change in tune from a bank which had only months previously said it was “disappointed” Staley elected to step down after running Barclays with “commitment and skill,” despite a raft of other scandals in his tenure. Fairly or not, Venkat’s early tenure will be defined by how quickly the bank can leave Jes Staley’s legacy behind.