PROFILE: Paul Barber, Barclays Bank Retail Financial Services - An impeccable PR credit rating. Paul Barber is about to take on the world of retail banking with Barclays

Things tend to happen quickly in the career of Paul Barber. At 27, after a few months as senior PR manager at retailer BhS, he was made head of corporate communications. He then joined international distribution company Inchcape and by the age of 30 was promoted to the board as group corporate affairs director. Now 31, Barber will transfer in November to head the communications effort for Barclays’ sprawling retail financial services division which comprises worldwide retail banking, Barclays Life, Barclaycard and electronic banking.

Things tend to happen quickly in the career of Paul Barber. At 27,

after a few months as senior PR manager at retailer BhS, he was made

head of corporate communications. He then joined international

distribution company Inchcape and by the age of 30 was promoted to the

board as group corporate affairs director. Now 31, Barber will transfer

in November to head the communications effort for Barclays’ sprawling

retail financial services division which comprises worldwide retail

banking, Barclays Life, Barclaycard and electronic banking.



Barber puts his rapid rise down to being in the right place at the right

time and having a number of ’sponsors’, such as Inchcape group chief

executive Philip Cushing, who were willing to overlook his relative

youth and promote him regardless. Already Barber has amassed

considerable experience. During the last year he has communicated

Inchcape’s decision to break up the company and faced the difficult task

of dismantling a much respected in-house team. He turned down the chance

to handle communications at the demerged Inchcape Motors company, on the

grounds that it would be a backwards step, and says the newly created

role at Barclays came along at the right time.



Those who know Barber think that he will relish the task of working for

one of the biggest brands in the cut-throat financial services

sector.



Stephen Humphreys, director of corporate communications at Royal London

Insurance and a former colleague at Abbey National, says: ’Paul’s

winning attribute is his enthusiasm for everything. He might be up late

one night ironing out small details in a press release and the next

morning talking about it as if it was the most exciting thing in the

world.’



Barber will need this enthusiasm at Barclays where his role will go way

beyond media relations, which will be handled by head of public

relations Nick Cobban. He will sit on the retail financial services

executive committee and report directly to division chief executive John

Varley.



Barber will join Barclays following a radical reorganisation of the

group into four separate divisions. He says his first task is not to get

bogged down with the shape of the communications team itself but to

identify how communications can help at all levels. ’I will look at the

business first, identifying the strategic objectives before looking at

the communications department.’



It is important to Barber that he is involved at board level at

Barclays.



One ex-colleague says: ’He has always been concerned with the importance

of being on the board. He is worried about this almost to the point of

being obsessed. It’s probably because he is fed up of the young

high-flier tag and wants to prove himself in a wider role.’



Barber says this is not quite so, adding that the most important thing

is ’having access to top people whether you are on the board or not.’

However, he admits that it was vital for him to move to a job at board

level to gain wider management experience. He does not rule out moving

into fields outside communications later in his career. Stewart Prosser,

chairman of the IPR’s City and Financial Group, says of Barber, who is

deputy chairman of the same group: ’He is industrious but what I have

found most useful is that he is creative, a very good ideas man.’



Barclays will need plenty of these ideas as it seeks to differentiate

its services while fighting off competition from traditional rivals and

newer players such as the supermarkets and Virgin.



Barber will work tirelessly for Barclays but he has a healthy

appreciation for things outside corporate life. In addition to a young

family Barber continues to enjoy a love of football. He supports Spurs

and has committed a large amount of time to advising on the Football

Association’s bid to stage the 2006 World Cup in England.



However, his own playing days are over after suffering a broken leg in

a game earlier this year. After the incident he raised smiles when he

attended a Guildhall dinner function in a pair of shorts due to his

plaster. ’Now I’m probably restricted to watching my four-year-old son

play,’ he concedes.



HIGHLIGHTS



1988: Press and PR officer, Royal Insurance



1990: Public and media relations manager, Abbey National



1994: Head of corporate communications, BhS



1996: Group corporate affairs director, Inchcape



1998: Director of communications, Barclays Bank Retail Financial

Services.



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