Morning Coffee: The biggest fear at Barclays now. Learn to live with dysfunction in investment banking
Just before Barclays was rocked by the investigation around its CEO Jes Staley, the bank quietly shelved plans to offer an anonymous whistleblowing service. Before that, in 2016, it was handing out free coffee mugs with a whistle and a phone number on to encourage more employees to report.
24 hours after the storm Staley himself has been on an internal charm offensive. The FT reports that he's been walking around Barclays' canteen, buying his soup and engaging in “colleague communication” to try and cool the situation. He also made two "floor walks", making himself available to rank and file staff in the bank's London office, and held conference calls with senior managers at the bank reiterating the message that he got too "personally involved".
Barclays staff seem less concerned with the suggestion that Staley appears to be trying to quash whistleblowers, and more bothered that he might actually leave. Barclays employees feel "well led" for the first time in years, insiders told the FT. The board appears to have rallied around Staley, but he needs the support of his employees if he's going to remain and he appears to still have it. After an initial period of "shock and disappointment" Barclays put a redirect on Staley's email because he was getting so many messages of support from his employees.
“The biggest sentiment from staff was fear that he might have to go,” the insider said.
Chris Wheeler, an analyst at Atlantic Equities, suggested most investment bankers won't be overly concerned with the recent news. “The majority of staff aren’t sitting around thinking ‘I want the ability to blow the whistle on my boss if he behaves badly’,” he said. Investment banks are full of cliques, friends and mentors who all look out for one another. “However, there may be some people in the retail bank who say ‘oh my goodness, I thought we had whistleblower protection and now I am not sure how robust that is’,” he added.
But The Times suggests that the situation may be more serious than most are making out, and that there's speculation that Staley could go after all. The U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on the investigation. This means that The Financial Conduct Authority, Bank of England and New York Department of Financial Services are all looking into it. Similarly, Barclays investors told the Telegraph that they fear regulators could push Staley towards the exit.
“I can understand him pursuing this once but pursuing twice when he’s been told no, it becomes a lot harder to go: ‘honest guv, that was a mistake’,” said one.
Separately, if you want to survive for any period of time in an investment bank, you might have to get used to some 'characters'. Investment banks are full of the "brightest and best", but this doesn't mean they're easy to get on with, said banker turned consultant Tim Skeet, writing in Financial News. "Brightness and educational level do not mean they are pleasant and sociable people to work with. Learn how to deal with clever but sometimes dysfunctional people," he said.
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