Barclays' chief executive Antony Jenkins has told investors that cost reduction is his absolute priority and he wants to find a way for the bank to operate with as few as 100,000 staff – a near 30 per cent reduction on its current headcount.
Mr Jenkins said a bank's "only competitive advantage is going to be lower costs", according to one person present at a recent shareholder meeting. "He said the only question is: 'how can you eventually turn this bank into one that can operate with 100,000 staff instead of 140,000?'"
The revelation will fuel speculation that Barclays is preparing a round of mass job cuts – potentially targeting highly paid investment bankers. However, people familiar with Mr Jenkins' thinking said the reference to job reductions was not a target but an aspiration for the next 10 years.
More from the Financial Times
Barclays' retrenchment from certain businesses around the world, particularly in continental Europe, will in any case cut the bank's staff numbers by several thousand.
When announcing annual results last month, Mr Jenkins pledged to eliminate 1.7bn in costs by 2015 as part of a far-reaching plan to overhaul the bank.
He was appointed to run Barclays last summer following the departure of Bob Diamond, after the bank paid 290m to settle Libor rate-rigging charges.
Barclays' name has been dragged through the mud in recent months. As well as the Libor scandal, it has seen product mis-selling costs spiral and it remains under investigation by regulators over controversial capital raisings in the Middle East five years ago.