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Barclays sets up academy to improve training, culture

Barclays, trying to restore its reputation after a series of scandals, has created a Compliance Career Academy in partnership with Cambridge University to improve staff training.

Barclays was the first bank to be fined for the alleged rigging of benchmark interest rates, which resulted in a $450 million fine and cost Bob Diamond, the bank's CEO at the time, his job. It was fined 26 million pounds ($44.24 million) in May this year for manipulating gold prices, and last week New York's attorney general filed a lawsuit alleging fraud in its "dark pool" trading venue.

Barclays Chairman David Walker said the new training would ensure that compliance staff could go a step further and mentor traders and other colleagues to improve culture and behavior.


Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"Compliance has not been seen as a serious enough specialist activity," Walker said. "Our track record in culture has not been good. It's important for us all to have a concept of culture, conduct and compliance."

Compliance officers, along with internal auditors, have long been seen as vulnerable to pressure from sales staff not to put too much grit in the profit-making machine.

Walker acknowledged this was an issue in the past, saying that "soft risks" like avoiding reputational damage were the hardest of all to deal with.

"One way of seeing it is that we are guilty until we prove ourselves to be innocent," Walker said.

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Bankers have been vilified in the press and by shareholders and politicians for getting huge bonuses despite the regulatory scandals. More than a third of Barclays' shareholders failed to back the bank's compensation plan at its annual shareholder meeting this year, angered by a 10 percent rise in 2013 bonuses despite a one-third drop in profits.

The new compliance program will be taught in partnership with the Cambridge Judge Business School.

Walker also said raising standards among traders was the best solution for an overhaul of the foreign exchange market, currently under investigation by global regulators.

The probe into the $5.3 trillion-a-day currency market is looking into allegations of collusion and price rigging. Regulators are due to report in the coming months on possible reforms of how forex benchmarks are set.

"The problem is the way the market is vulnerable to taint and malpractice," Walker told reporters. "It needs some sensitive fine-tuning."

He said heavy regulation would spoil the market by throwing out the baby with the bath water and simply spur traders to find ways round the rules.

In the distant past, abuses such as frontrunning in currency markets were widespread before it was made a criminal offence in the 1980s, and regulators have not looked at the market until the past 2-3 years, Walker said.

"It's timely for the market to be examined."

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