The MT Interview: Barclays' Marcus Agius

Barclays' chairman on its 'constructive dynamic', the Lehman deal, and that Varley/Diamond combo...

by Chris Blackhurst

When I step out of the lift on the 31st floor of Barclays' Canary Wharf headquarters, Marcus Agius is waiting to greet me. I'm not being taken to meet him or left to sit somewhere until Agius, head of one of the biggest banks in the world, is ready; instead, it's informal and personal - and thoughtful. His attire is elegant and individual. He has eschewed the uniform of the senior banker - pinstripe suit, braces and polished Oxfords - in favour of a designer suit and loafers. Yet he conveys authority and confidence.

There's something he wants to show me, he says, leading me by the arm. To the right of his office door is a corridor lined with paintings of his predecessors. To a man - and they are all men - they look forbidding and serious. These are not people to be messed with, and neither do they seem the sort to mess up. Anyone searching for a twinkle in the eye or a roguish grin will be disappointed.

It's Agius who chose to have them put there. He's the chairman of Barclays, and how that part of the bank's head office is decorated is presumably up to him. Some in his position, in a bank that has moved to a gleaming tower block, might have ditched the portraits as irrelevant to a 21st-century financial powerhouse. But Agius is proud of them. It feels as though his antecedents are keeping watch over him and the bank, checking that he and his colleagues don't drift from historic values.

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