NAIROBI — Barclays Bank’s CEO Antony Jenkins is after sustainable growth in profits and return on equity and not short-term success, Absa group CEO Maria Ramos said in Nairobi yesterday.
In a sign that Barclays has started a new chapter following the departure of former CEO Bob Diamond, Ms Ramos also said at a media briefing that she too believed integrity and "doing the right things" were key to protecting brand reputation and shareholder value.
Philip Freeborn, the chief operating officer and integration executive seconded from Barclays to Absa, also yesterday said in Nairobi that Barclays had to demonstrate "citizenship credentials" and show that it was a responsible bank in the wake of the Libor interest-rate fixing scandal that led to Barclays being fined £290m.
Mr Jenkins, who was in SA last week, recently took over from Mr Diamond following his resignation over the Libor scandal. The scandal also led to the resignation of former Barclays chairman Marcus Agius, who has been replaced by one of the City of London’s most respected bankers, David Walker.
Ms Ramos confirmed that Mr Jenkins, who had visited Absa for a familiarisation tour in his new role as head of the UK-headquartered bank, had emphasised that it was back to basics, with the focus more on sustainable profit growth and return on equity than behaviour that could tarnish the bank’s reputation.
"(Mr Jenkins) had that message for us which is about having sustainable returns above the cost of equity during (the implementation) of our Africa strategy. It has to be sustainable all the time and it is important that we do that," Ms Ramos said.
She said the choice of Mr Jenkins as CEO of Barclays, which owns 55.5% of Absa, was a welcome development as he had already bought into the Africa growth strategy in his previous role as head of the group’s global retail units.
He also sat on the Absa board as a nonexecutive board member, which meant he had institutional memory and understanding of the business and its future plans under the "One Bank in Africa" strategy, she said. Absa and Barclays are partnering to expand into markets in sub-Saharan Africa.
She acknowledged that bankers had probably not reacted quickly enough to challenges within their businesses and those posed by the tough economic and business environment." We need to do everything we can to regain what we have lost and restore (reputation) and not take that for granted," Ms Ramos said.
Her emphasis on reputational management dovetails with a similar statement made last week by Mr Jenkins, who said in London that all activities by Barclays would be screened for reputational effect as well as profitability. "Our ability to build a franchise over time depends on our reputation," he is quoted as saying by the Financial Times.
Ms Ramos, while not referring directly to the Libor interest-rate scandal that engulfed Barclays, said the world of banking was a different place and demanded a new way of doing business. "It is a tough global economic environment and has become more competitive," she said.
* Kamhunga was hosted in Nairobi by Absa.