Barclays appoints leader of professional services firm to drive culture change

July 25, 2012

Writing for Management Today Michael Northcott has just announced that “the spread eagle has hired one of the City’s biggest legal figures to conduct an internal review of the bank’s culture and practices.”

Clearly the Libor and leadership scandal has hit Barclays the hardest so far and now, to try to put this particularly persistent  debacle to bed, the bank has brought in what they are calling an expert to lead an ‘independent business practices review’.

Anthony Salz, a corporate lawyer who has been with one of the world’s largest law firms, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringe for more than 30 years and for the last 10 was the firm’s senior partner and now vice-chairman at Rothschild, will lead the review. Apparently he will be supported by what is being called ” a team of dedicated staff “ and “will have a professional services firm behind him”.

I’m not sure how reassuring that will be for shareholders, customers, communities and staff alike, however.

Northcott comments “Perhaps bringing in one of the City’s most accomplished lawyers will be a breath of fresh air for the trading floors”. Commenting on his appointment, Salz said: ‘I very much hope that this review will significantly assist Barclays in rebuilding trust and reaffirming its position as one of our leading institutions.’ That’ll take some doing, Ant…

The announcement comes amid rumours that former Treasury minister Lord O’Donnell is the front-runner to succeed former chairman of Barclays Marcus Agius, although O’Donnell claims nobody from the bank has actually approached him for discussions about the role. He has also been favourite for taking over as governor of the Bank of England next year, but, since money might talk for this career civil servant looking for some decent wedge to top up his pension, we reckon he’d probably go for Barclays. Those millions won’t grab themselves, will they?”

Ironically, only a year or so ago, I was addressing an audience of senior partners from professional services firms who were very clearly just attempting to start the journey towards making the link between culture, behaviour and brand. Most of the talk was of patriarchal cultures, undifferentiated brands and closed shops with little appreciation for the power of culture as a key differentiator. Yet now one of those firms is expected to become a key catalyst for change within the FS sector!

Attempting to put all skepticism aside, as a senior partner within comms, change and brand agencies and someone with in-depth knowledge of the financial services industry; as a communications, change and culture development specialist who has worked both in-house and across sectors, including within professional services at the highest of levels, this really does read like a PR nightmare.

With all the best will in the world how can external stakeholders be expected to swallow the notion that anyone so infused with the culture of the establishment and seemingly devoid of either classic or contemporary culture change credentials can be entrusted to have  the objectivity, knowledge or, I’m afraid to say, credibility to either undertake a comprehensive and insightful review or more importantly develop the strategy to bring about the sustainable transformation needed?

I’m sure I speak for most people when I scrape my jaw from the floor wishing the Barclays board well, especially given what’s at stake.

Brace yourselves gentlemen! Good luck, and in the meantime,  you might want to read this…….while picking up a copy of this, pdq:


3 Responses to “Barclays appoints leader of professional services firm to drive culture change”

  1. […] Apparently he will be supported by what is being called “a team of dedicated staff” and “will have a professional services firm behind him”. […]

  2. […] Apparently he will be supported by what is being called “a team of dedicated staff” and “will have a professional services firm behind him”. […]

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