Barclays decision to hire a new CEO suggests the brand is no longer the priority

Barclays is on the hunt for a new CEO after firing Anthony Jenkins in a surprise move. While the bank believes it has a “standout brand” and will now look to prioritise “shareholder returns”, industry metrics suggest there is still work to do to elevate perceptions among consumers.

Jenkins is to be replaced in the interim by chairman John McFarlane who will take on a role as executive chairman while the bank looks for a new CEO. He is promising to “reenergise” the bank with the goal of improving shareholder returns and becoming “leaner and more agile”.

He also says the new CEO will need a “new set of skills”.

McFarlane says: “Arriving at Barclays with a fresh perspective, it is evident that we have a standout brand with first-class retail, commercial and investment banking businesses. Nevertheless, we are leaving value on the table and a new approach is required.

“As a Group, if we aspire to bring shareholder returns forward, we need to be much more focused on what is attractive, what we are good at, and where we are good at it.”

Jenkins took over as CEO from former boss Bob Diamond, who left in the face of the Libor scandal. He was brought on board with a brief to restore the bank’s battered brand reputation.

In a bid to reconnect with consumers, Jenkins introduced a “your bank” initiative aimed at restoring trust in the brand to the same level as that enjoyed by branch staff. It has also launched a scheme that rewards staff based on how well they demonstrate Barclays “value and purpose” as well as a number of marketing campaigns that sought to reassure customers.

However, during Jenkins’ time as boss Barclays brand has also been hit by a number of further scandals due to its past behaviour. As recently as May it was handed the biggest UK bank fine ever when it was ordered to pay £284.4m by the Financial Conduct Authority for currency rigging.

It is also about to lose its top marketer, David Wheldon, to RBS. He most recently led brand, reputation, citizenship and marketing for Barclays and was a key figure in its attempts to turn around its brand.

Figures from YouGov’s Brand Index show that while Barclays’ brand has seen some signs of recovery, it is still languishing towards the bottom of a list of the top 28 banking brands.

Its overall Index score, a measure of a number of metrics including value, impression and reputation, was up by almost four points over the past year, a stastically significant rise. However it still sits at just -3.5, making it 25th on the list.

It is a similar story with its Buzz score – a measure of the positive and negative things said about a brand. While that was up by 6.7 points in the past 12 months its score remains firmly in negative figures at -6.7 making it 26th on the list.

Chuka Umana, Labour MP and shadow business secretary, says on Twitter he hopes the decision to sack Jenkins does not mean a “weakening in Barclays’ resolve to implement the Salz review”. The review called for a “transformational change” to restore the bank’s reputation focusing on the interests of customers rather than profit and bonuses.

Barclays says the decision to let Jenkins go does not signal any major change in strategy, merely that new leadership is required to “accelerate the pace of execution”.

Nevertheless job cuts are expected, particularly at its investment bank which had one of the lowest returns of any of Barclay’s business units last year. The appointment of a new CEO is expected to take some time.

Jenkins says: “I am very proud of the significant progress we have made since then.  Our capital position is much stronger, our business model is more balanced, we are much more disciplined on cost management, we have made good progress in rebuilding our reputation and we are seen as a leader in the application of technology to our business.

“While the external environment has continued to be, and will remain, challenging the Group now has the resilience to overcome these challenges.

“Most of all, I am proud that we have defined our culture through a common set of values for the Group and that the progress we have made and the tough decisions we have needed to take have all been achieved by applying these values and by focusing on the needs of all our stakeholders.”

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