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3 April 2013updated 22 Oct 2020 3:55pm

“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".

By Martha Gill

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.

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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.

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