People focus boosts bank’s fortunes

The
focus of Barclays’ chief executive on people policies helped the bank recover
from its financial woes of the late 1990s, according to its most senior HR
professional.

Matt
Barrett was brought in by Barclays in 1999. The bank had fallen to 22nd place in
the global banking market from a high of fourth position, and the previous
chief executive had just been fired in the middle of a board meeting.

His
HR background meant he was aware that focusing on people and culture was the
key to turning Barclays around, said Gary Dibb, chief administration officer.

"For
the first two years, Matt was on a constant circuit talking to employees,"
he told delegates at the Economist HR Directors’ European Summit. "If an
employee had an idea that worked, they would get a personalised letter or phone
call from the chief executive."

Barrett’s
first target of cutting costs by £1bn meant that HR spend was slashed by 39 per
cent. But he also changed the culture. Barclays consisted of four highly
autonomous businesses -retail banking, Barclays Capital, Barclaycard and
Private Banking – which rarely communicated with each other.

"We
made big changes to the 10-strong executive committee," said Dibb. "There was also lots
of movement between businesses, breaking down the silos."

Comments are closed.