Barclays appoints Aviva and FirstGroup head John McFarlane as chairman

John McFarlane gets the job of appeasing shareholders over the troubled bank's performance and strategy.

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 08 Jul 2015

Barclays has revealed John McFarlane, currently head of FirstGroup and insurer Aviva, as the replacement for chairman Sir David Walker. McFarlane becomes a non-exec director in January, before taking over as chairman in April, and will inherit a lender that has seen its shares fall by a quarter in the past 12 months. You could say he's already doing his job – they rose 1.4% to 228.75p on the news of his appointment.

McFarlane will be met by an in-tray overflowing with headache-inducing tasks. First up, assessing the strategy of Antony Jenkins, who replaced the Bob Diamond as chief exec in 2012 and this year launched a sweeping cost-cutting drive across the group.

This involved shrinking Barclays' investment bank, once a dominant flagship, and now fallen from grace. There's the issue of overall revenue falling 12% from a year ago, a figure that rises to 18% in the investment arm. Then there's how to cope with the ever-changing regulatory landscape, and how to improve the returns its getting on its equity.

As to whether McFarlane is up to what is undoubtedly a demanding task, he certainly had a steadying effect on a wayward Aviva, and he is a seasoned banker – he was chief exec at Australasian bank ANZ from 1997 to 2007 and a non-executive director at Royal Bank of Scotland. So he should know what he's doing. Which is reassuring, as he will be paid £800k a year for his troubles – not bad for a job that only requires a time commitment of 80% of a full-time role. That's a four-day week to the rest of us.

He also may well prove more in touch with what Barclays' beleaguered investors actually want (rather than focusing on the regulator as Walker did). In 2012 he booted CEO Andrew Moss out the door of careening Aviva after shareholders revolted over his pay, and took the wheel himself for a while till he found a worthy successor.

Which all sounds very bare-foot Bruce Willis, or at least would be if you replaced 'overseeing a business' with 'battling evil-doers'. If we hear the phrase 'yippee-ki-yay Antony Jenkins' emanating from Barclays' HQ any time soon, then we'll know what's happened.

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