Jenkins is seen as a safe pair of hands for the bank, hailing as he does from the risk-averse retail sector (as opposed to the devil-may-care investment arm). But he is going to have to demonstrate those keepy uppy skills this week if he is to juggle the Libor rate fixing scandal, the ongoing slew of PPI claims from angry consumers and businesses, and a new challenge, which reared its ugly head only last night.
The Serious Fraud Office (heady with its conviction of Asil Nadir) is investigating Barclays over a series of payments between the bank and a Qatari sovereign wealth fund back in 2008. The SFO smelled a rat after nosing through the FSA’s papers regarding Barclays’ fundraising that year, and is now pulling apart its commercial agreements looking for wrongdoing.
This could go very badly for Barclays. It has already paid out £290m over Libor, and lost chairman Marcus Agius and CEO. It desperately needs a period of peace and tranquillity to get its house in order. On the other hand, the boardroom clean-out is now complete so they can say with some credibility 'that was then - this is now'.
Jenkins’ first move as Barclays CEO has been to acknowledge and apologise for the bank’s transgressions. ‘We have made serious mistakes in recent years,’ he admits, ‘and clearly failed to keep pace with our stakeholders' expectations.’ This is no sudden about-face for Jenkins either; he's been saying that banks need to clean up their act for years. The upshot, of course, is that Jenkins intends to put Barclays back on the straight and narrow. But does he have a snowball’s chance in hell of doing so?
Jenkins is no fool. He is the man credited with doubling profits at Barclaycard between 2006 and 2009 and he has been on the bank’s executive committee since 2009 (check out MT's interview with Jenkins last year). But unlike Bob Diamond, the inveterate trader, Jenkins experience is limited to retail. What does this mean for Barclays investment arm? If Diamond couldn’t stop the i-bank going pear-shaped, how will Jenkins keep it in line?
It's all quite a change from a few years ago, when you wouldn't have put money on a retail banker getting to the top. He's still going to earn a good salary though. Jenkins has been put on a basic salary of £1.1m as opposed to Bob’s £1.3m, with a possible bonus of a further £7m.
Despite the (ahem) pay cut, and the gargantuan task he faces, Jenkins smiles, full of hope and optimism in his press shots. Let’s just hope that the ‘nice guy in banking’ doesn’t finish last…