So, Bob Diamond and Marcus Agius of Barclays have both now resigned as Chief Executive and Chairman respectively. It is not a huge surprise to anyone who has been following developments at 1 Churchill Place recently. With shares in Barclays having taken a beating since the end of last month, the announcements have clearly appeased the markets somewhat, with shares recovering slightly, up just under 3% this morning (03.07.12). There was also significant pressure exerted at the top from both Westminster and “Fleet Street” so it was inevitable that something had to give and it seems that everyone has now got what they want.
Is it actually good news? In the short term, this is another punch to the jaw to the reputation of the already wobbling financial services industry, which is now on the ropes and needing the bell – and rightly so. Fixing the inter-bank (LIBOR) lending rate is pretty low and one wonders what other skeletons will emerge from the closets of other institutions in the Square Mile and Canary Wharf. When people in the street are desperate for a ray of sunshine, both metaphorically and literally, this is a further blight on the banking industry, which is fast becoming the pantomime villain of modern life.
Long term however, this may prove a watershed moment – surely tighter regulation will come, even if it is after the horse has bolted. What an opportunity it also represents for our beloved industry to further cement itself at the top table, and moreover for corporate communications as a function to repair the reputation of what is such a crucial sector to UK plc. For that, the banks need to make sure that their communications teams are robust and best in class, and judging by some of the recent key hires we have seen, I have faith that they are in good shape long term.
As Nick Robinson put it this morning, LIBOR will be to banking what the Millie Dowler case was to phone hacking. Let’s hope so.