Barclays plots brand comms overhaul following Howell James' departure

Barclays is expected to place its comms function at the heart of a wide-ranging post-Libor review of its business following the departure of its top comms man.

Priority: Barclay's is to put comms at the heart of its business review
Priority: Barclay's is to put comms at the heart of its business review

Barclays' vice-chairman for corporate affairs Howell James resigned from the crisis-hit bank last week, after four years at the helm.

One source with close links to Barclays pointed out that newly appointed chairman David Walker - joining in November - would be expected to stamp his authority over any decision regarding a replacement for James.

The source told PRWeek: 'There's a new management team bringing in a lot of change. Change in terms of the way the business operates, change in terms of people, which has started already.'

The remaining senior UK comms team including recently installed head of corporate Stephen Doherty, director of media relations Giles Croot, and MD, public policy, corporate comms, strategy and planning Matt Hammerstein currently lead the way following James' departure.

A Barclays spokesman said that any decision on a replacement for James would follow 'various reviews across the business into practices and procedures', referring to an independent review currently being carried out by Rothschild executive vice-chairman Anthony Salz.

The review comes after a momentous year for Barclays, in which former boss Bob Diamond resigned following revelations of the Libor rate-rigging scandal that led to the bank being fined £290m.

Speaking last week, Barclays' new group CEO Antony Jenkins pointed the way towards a more transparent and ethical future for the bank, post-restructure, stating that it needs to 'take responsibility for its own actions' and not rely on existing regulation.

He added: 'I believe businesses that operate in an ethical way will, ultimately, be more successful.'

Porter Novelli director and corporate practice leader Neil Bayley suggested that Barclays should be looking outside the financial services industry for James' successor.

However, one senior financial services PRO suggested that personnel was not Barclays' primary issue, given it already employed Doherty and Croot. Instead, the source said the comms division needed a cultural overhaul from an era when Diamond tightly controlled the PR function.

HOW I SEE IT

Jo-Ann Robertson, MD, corporate and public affairs, Ketchum-Pleon

Whoever replaces James to lead the comms team needs to be a respected partner to the CEO and an influential voice at board level. This is the only way in which the story that Barclays wants to tell in the future will have an authentic and impactful voice.

Stewart Prosser, Founder, Prosser Associates

It's a high-stress, complex, multiple relationship-building role in a tough environment. The new CEO has been open and honest about the past, but how the bank's positive intent is put into practice will be the acid test. Comms within the banking industry is under more scrutiny than ever before.

Departing James looks forward to 'recapturing my life'

Barclays' vice-chairman for corporate comms to leave without another job lined up.

Howell James, Barclays' vice-chairman for corporate affairs, resigned from the crisis-hit bank last week without a job to go to.

James, who had served as Barclays' top comms professional since September 2008, will leave at the end of the year. Earlier this year, he oversaw comms during the period when the bank's reputation was dragged through the mud over the Libor rate-fixing scandal.

'I decided during the summer that, after four-and-a-half years, it was time to move on,' James told PRWeek. 'I joined Barclays at the height of the financial crisis, knowing it would be an adventure, and so it has proved.'

James said he was looking forward to a fresh challenge and 'recapturing my life'.

He was hired by Barclays after working as the Cabinet Office's permanent secretary for government comms - a role that was subsequently axed - for four years.

During his tenure as the Government's top comms adviser, James was involved in creating a more joined-up approach to comms.

Before the Cabinet Office, he was a director and founding partner at Brown Lloyd James and political secretary to the then prime minister Sir John Major. He also worked as director of corporate affairs at Cable & Wireless and the BBC.

Key figures

£290m

The fine levied on Barclays by the FSA over Libor rate rigging*

£700m

Extra money set aside by Barclays last week to cover mis-selling of PPI*

£2m

The estimated value of Bob Diamond's severance deal**

3%

Percentage fall in profits for 2011, to £5.9bn,reported in February***

Source: *Barclays; **Widely reported; ***The BBC.

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