Bob Diamond – the schoolboy banker finally facing the music


Ex-Barclays employee Ajit Chambers gives the lowdown on the bank’s work culture and why the fine isn’t enough

A rather fantastic world is coming to light – one where senior characters in banking are finally being exposed.

The public is at last beginning to realise that a company like Barclays actually consists of the sum of its parts. The people who work inside the building can’t hide faceless behind the name of the bank.

I look back and remember my 15 years in banking and it was like a movie. The lovely champagne breakfast on the flight in from Geneva every morning, leaving behind the Swiss snow-clad chalet to arrive in the beating heart of London.

The helicopter flight for lunch in Chamonix. The Barclays board member who locked himself out of the US mortgage takeover meeting while on a cigar break. The lovely secret suitcase that could record mobile phone calls.

But the romance and movie script soon disappears when you enter Barclays’ offices in Canary Wharf and are immediately reminded of how the industry cultivates bullying.

My old boss once told the entire team to stop working because his management wasn’t promoting him. Then, as his promotion finally arrived, he hit out on us all for not achieving objectives and made our bonuses disappear like dust in the wind – which pleased his management even more so. A thousand examples of his personality exist in the building. After all, if your leader plays that game why wouldn’t you?

My experiences with board level members of Barclays stretches from the extremely capable and charming Paul Idzik, Barclays’ ex-chief operating officer, to the school boy death stare of current boss Bob Diamond. 

Barclays head office is an ethereal playground sprinkled with the ambitious, the capable and the power hungry, all taking for granted the fact they’re being paid the same and all go home to a lovely family (who knows nothing about the hostile environment their partner spends the day in).

So where do I stand on Barclays current situation? I wonder specifically who in the government is allowing a company, whose profits actually increased in the credit crunch in regions of £6-11bn to be fined just £290m. 

I wonder how this fine repays the people affected by the rigging of interest rates, as normally just another regulator swallows it into its yearly budget.

I wonder which Barclay’s ex-employees sit on boards of the pensions regulator, the BBC, and other undeclared strategic posts readily holding information pertinent to their old employer and awaiting the day they are re-hired to divulge. 

And although the famous quote says ‘’it only takes one good man to do nothing for evil to triumph’’, what I wonder most is who is going to be given the chance to change this playground culture, which of our good men is going to sort this out?

I say two things to conclude this article: remember that the decisions that cause fines of £290m are made by people in a room who are very aware of what they are doing. Two, although effective financiers are entirely necessary for our world to operate, bankers like Bob Diamond will, from now on, face their own exposure.

Ajit Chambers worked with the Barclays board members from 2000 to 2004 assisting the bank’s management on the £250m contract exit with Electronic Data Systems. He’s now the CEO of the Old London Underground Company.