Getting Barclays together
The new chairman of Barclays is to undertake a wholesale review of the way the bank operates and has admitted that he agrees "in principle" with customers paying to use current accounts and ending free banking.
In his first interview as chairman, Sir David Walker said he wanted to see significant change and was not committed to any of former chief executive Bob Diamond's business plans "except getting it right".
Setting a 24-month deadline, by which time he hopes the bank - owner of Absa - will be back on a firmer footing, Walker said his priorities would be the appointment of a new chief executive, pay reform and the instilling of a new corporate culture. He said he wants to strengthen the board to allow it to challenge the new chief executive more effectively.
Walker, who was appointed on Thursday, said he wanted to appoint two new board members and that he was in favour of Barclays retaining both its retailing and investment banking arms.
He said he would like to speed up "ring-fencing" so that the two arms were functionally separated before the 2019 deadline set by the UK government.
He said that, "in principle", he favoured charging for bank accounts and services, arguing that if fees had been in place the bank might have avoided some of the recent "mis-selling" in the UK banking industry.
He branded the mis-selling episodes, such as interest rate swaps to small companies, and payment-protection insurance, as "the consequence of not charging for bank accounts".
"Because banks are not charging, it drives them inexorably into this sort of position," he said.
His appointment was made less than a month after his predecessor, Marcus Agius, and Diamond resigned within 24 hours of each other in the wake of the Libor scandal. He takes over on November 1.
Walker said his first challenge was the search for a new chief executive.
"He's a polymath," he said when asked to describe the ideal candidate. "Leaving aside where he's coming from, whether he's an investment or a retail banker, he needs to be confident of leading in a lateral way."
On the future of the bank, Walker said he did not have a "confident view at this point" as to where Diamond's much-cherished investment bank fitted in the mix.
Asked if he was committed to the existing business plan, he replied: "I'm not committed to anything except getting it right.
"This is a bank with a £1.5-trillion balance sheet. It is critical where capital is applied, and that's certainly something I would want to look at."
He has already spoken to Anthony Salz, a former lawyer drafted in to lead a review of the bank's business practices and culture.
On the issue of pay, the new chairman, whose most recent role was as a senior adviser to US investment bank Morgan Stanley, said it was "partly a question of level, and partly of structure".
He admitted that there was a "sense of crisis" about corporate culture and pay that would have to be resolved quickly.
A number of the decisions needed had been made simpler by recent events, he said - meaning that the bank understood the need for change.
One area he is keen to focus on is the way in which the board operates. He said he was conscious of criticism that non-executive directors had not stood up to the bank's executive team. © The Sunday Telegraph, London