Former Barclays chief Bob Diamond has said he “didn’t think it was fair” that he took the blame for banking misconduct during the Libor scandal, but admitted he could have “done things better” during the financial crisis.
The long-time banker – whose short stint as chief executive lasted from 2011 to 2012 – recalled the day he was asked to step down as chief executive, calling it “the most challenging” professional decision of his life.
He had been told he had lost the confidence of the Bank of England, the Chancellor and the City watchdog despite Barclays having been the first to settle with authorities over Libor-rigging – paying £290 million in 2012.
He begrudgingly bowed to board pressure.
“The request for me to resign was, in my mind, not the right decision in terms of how I conducted myself, how I behaved, how I was doing in the institution, the support I had from the various constituencies.”
Mr Diamond claims he decided to step down to protect both the bank and his family.
I had become a lightning rod and I thought it was better for me to step down and do the right thing than ask the board to support me
“I decided that if I act according to everything I believe, then the number one is what’s good for Barclays and the second thing is what’s good for my family.
“And I had to admit that I had become a lightning rod. I didn’t like that.
“It didn’t feel like me, it didn’t look like me, I didn’t think it was appropriate, I didn’t think it was fair, but I had become a lightning rod and I thought it was better for me to step down and do the right thing than ask the board to support me.”
When asked whether he thought it was fair that current Barclays chief executive Jes Staley has been able to keep his job despite having been fined by regulators for unmasking a whistleblower, Mr Diamond told the Press Association: “I don’t worry about that stuff.”
Mr Diamond, who was speaking at a How to: Academy event in Westminster, also recalled how the Libor scandal brought him in front of the Treasury Select Committee, where he came face to face with its former chairman and Tory MP Andrew Tyrie.
“It was gruelling to be in front of the Treasury Select Committee. There are few people I have met that I respect more than Andrew Tyrie. He had a tough job that day. I had a bit of a harder one, but I think he … is a good man.”
The former Barclays boss – who now heads his own financial services firm Atlas Mara – stressed that Barclays remains one of the few to have survived the financial crisis without a Government bailout.
But Mr Diamond said he was willing to admit he had not always done his best, particularly in the lead-up to the financial crisis.
“There was no banker who didn’t make mistakes during this period, so could I have done things better? Absolutely.
“I think what I’m proud of though, is that during that period Barclays survived, we were stable.”
Looking ahead, he expects the banking landscape to become more localised, with successful strategies set to be more regional than global for international lenders.
The transition away from “universal” banks will mean the sector will innovate and fail if necessary, without bringing down the entire financial system, he said.
Mr Diamond added: “If I am correct and the exciting part of financial services is going to be more national, regional and less global – more focused on selective and less universal – then failure again is an option.
“If these smaller, national firms fail, we’re not creating systemic risk.
“It’s OK, some of them are going to fail and many of them are going to be very successful so … I’m very optimistic about the future of financial services.”