A lawyer should run Barclays
I think I have a solution to the crisis of confidence in our banks - starting with the current vacancy at Barclays, let us put lawyers at the helm of all the important ones. As what has gone awry in recent decades catches up with banks’ chief executives, do not give their near-identical number twos the job - but dramatically promote the general counsel.
The GCs would be surprised - hell, everyone would be surprised - but the more I think about it, the more sensible it sounds. (And to be clear, as I write this I am sober, in full possession of my faculties, and had a good night’s sleep.)
A lot has been written about the ‘tone from the top’ in banking being unequal to the task of changing banking culture. You can see why - the draw of the rewards available for a certain type of risk-taking within banks are huge, and continue to get bigger all the way to the top.
In the current model, progress is linear, and the rewards massive. A magnetic pull of that order needs a counterweight that it currently lacks.
I notice that the corporate counsel I know in the financial services industry are very unlike their counterparts on the trading floor. They are brighter than relationship managers, and personally distant from the misdeeds that have caused their employers so many problems in recent years.
It may sound naïve to say that lawyers in their environment remain bound by their professional rules and ethics. But I believe it is largely true - not least a lawyer’s career is ended by a whiff of regulatory trouble, whereas for straight bankers there is a tolerance for a certain amount of trouble.
So why not give the lawyers, whose careers have been built around managing risk, for who any loss of reputation is vocationally fatal, the top jobs? Such a step would instantly send the signal that a new set of values are now rewarded - and as we are always being told, people who work in banking respond chiefly to the substantial rewards on offer.
Eduardo Reyes is Gazette features editor
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