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Barclays needs a confident and successful banker.

Byline: Bill Gleeson

MUCH fuss was generated yesterday by news of Bob Diamond's appointment as the next chief executive of Barclays bank.

An Irish-American with British citizenship, Mr Diamond has a huge reputation as an investment banker, and has earned a pounds 100m fortune for himself by managing Barclays Capital, the bank's investment banking arm. This is very much the high-risk, highstakes casino banking that caused the big banking problems seen during the credit crunch.

He takes over as chief executive from John Varley, who will remain as a consultant to the board for six months in a bid to appease the Financial Services Authority.

Some might be tempted to think Mr Diamond is a glutton for punishment. With his new-found prominence as the top boss at the bank, he will become the centre of considerable political attention, particularly over his pay, though he would encounter that problem with any bank in the world at present.

But, as well as being a glutton for punishment, he is also very successful. How else did he earn those pounds 20m-a-year bonuses? Mr Diamond built Barclays Capital from virtual scratch, including picking up a bargain from the wreckage of the Lehman Brothers collapse.

Before politicians or anybody else becomes overheated about Barclays' new boss, we shouldn't forget a successful bank is vital to all of us. Barclays will contribute billions to UK public finances.

On the downside, the risk is Mr Diamond's business instincts aren't sufficiently risk-averse for this more prudent age. We need our retail banks to be safe places to deposit the nation's savings.

Yet, ultimately, we also need a confident bank led by a confident banker. Hopefully, with Mr Diamond, Barclays has found just such a person.

YOU hear so much about the tentative nature of Britain and America's economic recovery.

The fear of a double dip has not gone away.

Yet, there are signs around that global economic growth is asserting itself strongly, at least in some sectors.

Recent news from the shipping industry, both locally and internationally, is one example of this. CMA CGM is one of Liverpool's - and the world's - biggest shipping operators. Its latest figures suggest that the fortunes of this business, which nearly went bust last year, have improved massively. This is partly a result of cost cutting, but it also arises from a huge increase in trade.

The importance of improving global trade for the Merseyside economy should not be underestimated.

The maritime sector accounts for 20% of the sub-region's economic output.

There may be plenty of doom and gloom around about the local effects of the forthcoming public sector cuts, but there is also some good news about that should not be overlooked.

MORE evidence that things are picking up comes from the retail sector.

Shop sales, according to the British Retail Consortium, were up 1% in the month of August, a much better than expected figure. Rising consumer spending could help fuel growth.

And yet, on the same day, Debenhams reveals that it is fearful of a slow Christmas, so it is discounting prices by up to 25%. The group would prefer to achieve market share now, rather than give stock away in a bonanza sales season in January. Clearly a mixed outlook persists.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 8, 2010
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