22nd Sep 2010

Bob Diamond: The Acceptable Face of Barclays?

As expected, Massachusetts banker Bob Diamond has been confirmed as the new CEO of Barclays. Yet I sense that Diamond, who will take a pay cut as he assumes formal control, has essentially been in charge at the bank for a number of years now.

An aggressive internal player, Diamond may not view his official appointment as his first 100 days in charge, yet this would be a miscalculation on his part. Now is the time for Bob to engage in first 100 days strategic thinking and renew his leadership skills and plans. 

First and foremost he needs to address the issue of his public image. The man described as the ‘unacceptable face’ of investment banking by Peter Mandelson at the height of the economic crisis is an astute operator, and will realize that he needs to manage his public perception in a way that was not necessary before he became the public face of the company.

Diamond’s appointment is also likely to bring further scrutiny to the bank’s remuneration practices. In terms of its retail operations, Barclays has sought to infuse its brand with a broader appeal, most notably through sponsorship of the FA Premier League. Diamond needs to avoid early gaffes in his first 100 days to ensure the company as a whole does not become synonymous with ‘casino banking’ and executive excess. Any errors in this regard could serve to undermine an extremely expensive re-branding and sponsorship effort

Of equal importance is his ability to manage relationships with his leadership team effectively. He has not always shied away from conflict with colleagues (such as the now-departed Roger Davis, former Head of UK banking), but now needs to focus on aligning his team along a shared vision and setting a clear direction for the company.

Diamond’s rise since joining Barclays in late 1996 has been stellar, and he has transformed BarCap into one of the world’s leading investment banking institutions. Competitors, investors and media commentators will view the three months from next April as his first 100 days. Diamond would be well advised to do so too.

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