Jonathan Prynn, Consumer Business Editor
3 Nov 2011
The boss of Barclays today admitted that City bankers “had to become better citizens” in an extraordinary recognition of failure.
The comments in a lecture tonight mark a dramatic U-turn from Bob Diamond who told MPs in January that the time for remorse and apology “needs to end”.
Mr Diamond – once described as the “unacceptable face of banking” – was speaking after David Cameron said yesterday that the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke “for the whole country” after he criticised City excess.
The £8 million-a-year Barclays chief executive will say in a BBC lecture tonight that it is vital for banks to win back the trust of the public.
He will say in the first BBC Today Programme Business Lecture: “First, we have to build a better understanding of how businesses and banks work together to generate economic growth.
“Frankly, banks have done a very poor job of explaining how we contribute to society. Second, we have to accept responsibility for what has gone wrong. Finally, most importantly, we have to use the lessons learned to become better and more effective citizens.”
The comments from a senior banker widely seen as a “hard-line” cheerleader for the City’s banking industry comes after almost three weeks of protests outside St Paul’s Cathedral by Occupy London demonstrators.
The American-born bank boss made his comments as world leaders gather in Cannes for the G20 Summit to prevent a second global meltdown more than three years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered the first banking crisis.
Anger over the role played by bonus earning bankers in the financial crash and subsequent deep recession has led to a worldwide wave of protest that started with the Occupy Wall Street demonstration in September.
Since then the Occupy movement has spread to countries such as Italy, Spain and Germany. However, it is the tented village in the City that has arguably had the most impact, triggering the resignation of the Canon and Dean of St Paul’s, splitting the Church of England and leading to a national debate about the ethics of Britain’s huge financial services industry.
Yesterday at Prime Minister’s Questions David Cameron told MPs he wanted to “bring responsibility to the boardroom”.
“I think the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks, frankly, for the whole country when he says it is unacceptable in a time of difficulty when people at the top of our society are not showing signs of responsibility,” he told the Commons.
Barclays revealed this week that it made a pre-tax profit of £5.066 billion in the first nine months of the year, up 19 per cent on last year.