"Uncomfortable reading": 7 key extracts from the Salz report into Barclays' culture

"A few investment bankers seemed to lose a sense of proportion and humility".

The Salz Review-  a report into Barclays' cultural shortcomings post libor scandal - makes for "uncomfortable reading", according to the bank's current CEO. He's not wrong. Here are some key extracts (emphasis mine throughout):

The report suggests that if there were company values at Barclays, no-one knew about them:

We believe that the business practices for which Barclays has rightly been criticised were shaped predominantly by its cultures, which rested on uncertain foundations. There was no sense of common purpose in a group that had grown and diversified significantly in less than two decades. And across the whole bank, there were no clearly articulated and understood shared valuesso there could hardly be much consensus among employees as to what the values were and what should guide everyday behaviours. And as a result there was no consistency to the development of a desired culture.

HR wasn't given enough power:

At Barclays, HR at times appears to have been seen more as an administrative function required to satisfy business needs. Although Bob Diamond, on becoming President, also took on responsibility for Group Talent, the heads of HR were typically on neither the Group nor divisional Executive Committees. HR appears accordingly to have found it difficult to exercise an appropriate level of challenge to the businesses on some people-related issues. Heads of HR were not given the authority to push sufficiently for the heads of business units to reflect desired behaviours in a variety of matters, such as promotion decisions, performance reviews, or remuneration. Given the decentralised model, it was especially difficult for the Group Head of HR to have appropriate influence within the investment bank.

The law wasn't given enough power:

The institutional cleverness ... stretched relationships with regulators and resulted in them and the market questioning some of Barclays’ financial information. Barclays was sometimes perceived as being within the letter of the law but not within its spirit.

Cash > people:

At Barclays, pay was emphasised above any other aspect of people management (see Section 11). In addition, rather than being seen as a means of driving culture, people management was considered predominantly as a tool to increase business performance. Moreover, the people management processes seemed to us to be loosely linked, resulting in different, and sometimes conflicting, messages.

And maybe paying investment bankers too much had turned them all into bastards:

Most but not all of the pay issues concern the investment bank. To some extent, they reflect the inevitable consequences of determinedly building that business – by hiring the best talent in a highly competitive international market (and during a bubble period) – into one of the leading investment banks in the world. The levels of pay (except at the most senior levels) were generally a response to the market. Nevertheless, based on our interviews, we could not avoid concluding that pay contributed significantly to a sense among a few that they were somehow unaffected by the ordinary rules. A few investment bankers seemed to lose a sense of proportion and humility.

..or was it that paying investment bankers too much had merely attracted bastards?

Elevated pay levels inevitably distort culture, tending to attract people who measure their personal success principally on compensation. Our review indicates that this was the case in the investment bank, with many interviewees reporting a sense of an entitlement culture.

Well whichever it was, this doesn't reflect well on the bank’s top 70 executives, who were paid, according to the report  “consistently and significantly above the median compared to peer banks”.

The report concludes:

If Barclays is to achieve a material improvement in its reputation, it will need to continue to make changes to its top levels of pay so as to reflect talent and contribution more realistically, and in ways that mean something to the general public.

Photograph: Getty Images

Martha Gill writes the weekly Irrational Animals column. You can follow her on Twitter here: @Martha_Gill.

Photo: Getty Images
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I'm far from convinced by Cameron's plans for Syria

The Prime Minister has a plan for when the bombs drop. But what about after?

In the House of Commons today, the Prime Minister set out a powerful case for Britain to join air strikes against Isil in Syria.  Isil, he argued, poses a direct threat to Britain and its people, and Britain should not be in the business of “outsourcing our security to our allies”. And while he conceded that further airstrikes alone would not be sufficient to beat Isil, he made the case for an “Isil first” strategy – attacking Isil now, while continuing to do what we can diplomatically to help secure a lasting settlement for Syria in which Assad (eventually) plays no part.

I agreed with much of David Cameron’s analysis. And no-one should doubt either the murderous barbarism of Isil in the region, or the barbarism they foment and inspire in others across the world.  But at the end of his lengthy Q&A session with MPs, I remained unconvinced that UK involvement in airstrikes in Syria was the right option. Because the case for action has to be a case for action that has a chance of succeeding.  And David Cameron’s case contained neither a plan for winning the war, nor a plan for winning the peace.

The Prime Minister, along with military experts and analysts across the world, concedes that air strikes alone will not defeat Isil, and that (as in Iraq) ground forces are essential if we want to rid Syria of Isil. But what is the plan to assemble these ground forces so necessary for a successful mission?  David Cameron’s answer today was more a hope than a plan. He referred to “70,000 Syrian opposition fighters - principally the Free Syrian Army (FSA) – with whom we can co-ordinate attacks on Isil”.

But it is an illusion to think that these fighters can provide the ground forces needed to complement aerial bombardment of Isil.  Many commentators have begun to doubt whether the FSA continues to exist as a coherent operational entity over the past few months. Coralling the myriad rebel groups into a disciplined force capable of fighting and occupying Isil territory is a heroic ambition, not a plan. And previous efforts to mobilize the rebels against Isil have been utter failures. Last month the Americans abandoned a $500m programme to train and turn 5,400 rebel fighters into a disciplined force to fight Isil. They succeeded in training just 60 fighters. And there have been incidents of American-trained fighters giving some of their US-provided equipment to the Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Why has it proven so hard to co-opt rebel forces in the fight against Isil? Because most of the various rebel groups are fighting a war against Assad, not against Isil.  Syria’s civil war is gruesome and complex, but it is fundamentally a Civil War between Assad’s forces and a variety of opponents of Assad’s regime. It would be a mistake for Britain to base a case for military action against Isil on the hope that thousands of disparate rebel forces can be persuaded to change their enemy – especially when the evidence so far is that they won’t.

This is a plan for military action that, at present, looks highly unlikely to succeed.  But what of the plan for peace? David Cameron today argued for the separation of the immediate task at hand - to strike against Isil in Syria – from the longer-term ambition of achieving a settlement in Syria and removing Assad.  But for Isil to be beaten, the two cannot be separated. Because it is only by making progress in developing a credible and internationally-backed plan for a post-Assad Syria that we will persuade Syrian Sunnis that fighting Isil will not end up helping Assad win the Civil War.  If we want not only to rely on rebel Sunnis to provide ground troops against Isil, but also provide stable governance in Isil-occupied areas when the bombing stops, progress on a settlement to Syria’s Civil War is more not less urgent.  Without it, the reluctance of Syrian Sunnis to think that our fight is their fight will undermine the chances of military efforts to beat Isil and bring basic order to the regions they control. 

This points us towards doubling down on the progress that has already been made in Vienna: working with the USA, France, Syria’s neighbours and the Gulf states, as well as Russia and Iran. We need not just a combined approach to ending the conflict, but the prospect of a post-war Syria that offers a place for those whose cooperation we seek to defeat Isil. No doubt this will strike some as insufficient in the face of the horrors perpetrated by Isil. But I fear that if we want not just to take action against Isil but to defeat them and prevent their return, it offers a better chance of succeeding than David Cameron’s proposal today. 

Stewart Wood is a former Shadow Cabinet minister and adviser to Ed Miliband. He tweets as @StewartWood.